CHEONG Jun Hoong was hailed a national hero after winning Malaysia’s first ever diving gold medal at the FINA World Aquatics Championships.
The 27-year-old, who won bronze in the 10m synchronised platform with partner Pandelela Rinong earlier this week, stunned the diving world by beating China’s Si Yajie by 1.50 points to win gold in the 10m platform.
“My god, I’m a world champion,” said Cheong. “Of course it is a dream come true. It is the first gold medal at world championships in diving for Malaysia, it’s unexpected and unbelievable.
“I hoped for a medal, but I didn’t think I could beat the Chinese divers. I have focused only for myself and I watched the scoreboard after the last dive of Si Yajie, so I realised my win only at that moment.”
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Cheong’s stunning achievement capped a glorious few days in Budapest, Hungary, for the Perak-born diver, who was a silver medallist along with Pandelela at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro last year.
Khairy Jamaluddin, Malaysia’s federal minister for youth and sports, congratulated Cheong in a tweet, labelling her achievement “nothing short of greatness” and adding: “A nation honours her.”
China’s Si, who at 18 already has three World Championship gold medals, was surprised to lose.
— Khairy Jamaluddin (@Khairykj) July 20, 2017
“Cheong’s win is a little surprise for me, but I congratulate her,” she said.
Chinese divers have dominated diving at the World Aquatics Championships, making diving veteran Cheong’s victory all the more impressive.
Starting with the 1986 event in Madrid, Spain, Chinese divers had won seven of the 12 gold medals for the women’s 10m platform dive until Cheong’s victory.
She scored 397.50 points, with Si getting 396.00 and China’s reigning Olympic champion, 16-year-old Ren Qian, third with 391.95.
Pandelela, the stand-alone golden girl of Malaysian diving until Cheong’s stunning victory, was ninth with 322.40.