SEA Games: China still top, says Malaysian diving champ

Kuala Lumpur (AFP) –


Malaysian diving queen Cheong Jun Hoong dismissed her historic world title as "luck" on Sunday as she braved a back injury to claim Southeast Asian Games gold.

Cheong, who upset Chinese opposition to win Malaysia's first diving world title in July, scored 268.55 points for victory on Sunday in the 1m springboard category in Kuala Lumpur.

The 27-year-old, competing on painkillers and restricted to only one event because of her back problem, beat team-mate Jasmine Lai by 35.55 points.

Cheong teamed with Pandelela Rinong to win Olympic silver in the 10m platform synchronised last year, before stunning China's Si Yajie and Ren Qian to secure the 10m individual world title in Budapest.

She is at the forefront of an impressive Malaysia team who are attempting to sweep all 13 SEA Games diving golds -- and could threaten China at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

But Cheong said China, who have dominated Olympic diving since the 1990s, were still the team to beat -- and suggested her world title may even have been down to luck.

"China is still the highest standard in the world. So in the world championships when I beat those Chinese, I think maybe (it was) luck," she said.

Cheong now begins a period of rest and rehabilitation for her longstanding back injury, which also troubled her at the world championships.

Cheong has suffered a series of injury setbacks over the years and reportedly considered retiring in 2009. But she said she currently had no plans to quit.

"As long as I can dive I think I'll still be in diving," she said, adding that Malaysia needed to go "step by step" for the Olympics, and worry about qualifying first.

"We really have to focus on training for the whole Malaysian team," said Cheong.

Later, Ooi Tze Liang headed another Malaysian one-two in the men's 10m platform as the hosts made it five wins out of five in the diving events so far.