KUALA LUMPUR: Cheong Jun Hoong’s only hope of rediscovering her form is by training under former national coach Yang Zhuliang.
The China-born coach is now based in Brisbane and has acknowledged that he has received calls from Malaysian officials enquiring whether he is still available.
And out-of-favour Jun Hoong could head to Brisbane and train under Zhuliang to prepare for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
The Ipoh-born diver is currently under rehab following a knee surgery late last year and has yet to return to competition.
Despite recording several significant firsts for the country, Jun Hoong has almost no friends at the national diving camp due to several controversies in the past.
And signs are that she will be sidelined from training opportunities and competitions.
The national squad are currently in China but she is based in Kuala Lumpur.
However, even if she returns to training, the current national coaches may not be qualified enough to coach a reigning world champion.
Training under Zhuliang will be ideal for Jun Hoong ahead of the Olympic qualifying events — Asian Cup in September and next year’s World Cup.
Jun Hoong has already been ruled out of the World Championships, also an Olympic qualifying event, in Gwangju, South Korea in July and her participation in the Asian Cup is also in question.
She will only get to compete in the Asian Cup, which offers one Olympic spot in each individual event, in KL if she returns to her best.
Since Zhuliang’s departure under controversial circumstances, Malaysian diving has failed to shine under the current coaches.
Zhuliang’s contract was not extended by the Sports Ministry after it expired in December 2017 following complaints by several divers in the national squad.
He was blamed by the Sports Ministry — following a report conducted by an independent body, who interviewed the divers and others — for allowing a “culture and environment of fear” in the national team. Zhuliang denied the accusation.
Under Zhuliang, the national divers achieved many significant firsts by winning medals at the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and World Series.
Malaysian diving’s most notable success under Zhuliang was Jun Hoong winning gold at the the World Championship in 2017 in Budapest.
No Malaysian had ever done that before. Jun Hoong upstaged China’s world famous divers enroute to winning the women’s 10m platform individual gold.
It was a remarkable feat, considering that Malaysia only took the sport seriously in the mid-1990s.
Following Jun Hoong’s triumph, Zhuliang promised that he would groom a diver to win an Olympic gold in Tokyo next year.
Unfortunately, he never had the chance to do so following the Sports Ministry’s decision not to renew his contract.
However, there is now a distinct possibility Zhuliang may get to fulfil his wish if Jun Hoong trains under him in Brisbane.
“I have received calls from Malaysian sports officials enquiring whether I was still interested in coaching some of the national divers. I have not made my decision,” said Zhuliang, who runs a pharmacy in Brisbane.
Zhuliang is still passionate about Malaysian diving and will definitely jump at any opportunity to train the national divers again. It has been reported he has turned down offers from Australia and Germany.
Last month, a concerned National Sports Council (NSC) director-general Datuk Ahmad Shapawi Ismail said: “The NSC management are aware of the national divers’ lacklustre performances.”
“The achievements of the divers for 2019 will be reevaluated after the World Championships.”
The national squad are currently trained by three coaches — Li Rui and Li Teng, who are from China, as well as Australian Christian Brooker.