Budapest 2017 repeat will be hard ask

Budapest was the venue for the Malaysian diving team's best-ever finish at the World Aquatics Championships five years ago.

But a lot has changed since then, and it remains to be seen if the current squad are capable of pulling off a similar feat when the competition gets underway on Sunday.

Five years ago, it was Cheong Jun Hoong who partnered with Pandelela Rinong to grab a bronze in the women's 10m platform synchro event.

Jun Hoong then achieved an even more incredible feat as she went on to beat the top Chinese divers then to take gold in the individual event a few days, making it a historic accomplishment for Malaysia.

Jun Hoong retired last year, calling time on a decorated career following the Tokyo Olympics, but Pandelela is still going strong and will be competing in her seventh straight world championships campaign at the age of 29.

Pandelela, a two-time Olympic medallist, will make a bid to continue her impressive streak of making the world championships podium for the fifth straight time.

She has picked up one silver and four bronze medals from six campaigns. The Sarawak-born diver tasted success in the synchro in 2009 and 2013 with Mun Yee and 2017 with Jun Hoong.

However, Pandelela's only individual success in the world meet was a long time ago when she finished third in the 2015 edition in Kazan, while her best achievement so far was taking silver with Mun Yee in the synchro in the last world meet in 2019.

Pandelela has the ability to rise to the occasion, as evident with her Diving World Cup win last year, but it will be a tall order with the Chinese divers also in the mix this time.

Both Pandelela and Nur Dhabitah Sabri will be in action in the 10m platform individual tomorrow, but it is in the synchro event on Thursday where they stand a better chance to make the podium.

Pandelela combined with Dhabitah to win gold in the Hanoi Sea Games last month, but the world meet is a different story altogether.

Diving powerhouse China are likely to field a new combination in Quan Hongchan-Chen Yuxi and former national coach Yang Zhuliang feels the gold is theirs to lose.

Chen Yuxi won the women's 10m platform synchro gold with Zhang Jiaqi, while Hongchan scored two perfect 10s en route to winning the 10m platform individual gold at the Tokyo Olympics last year.

"Hongchan already went through the Olympic experience last year with flying colours," said Zhuliang.

"It's a new combination but the Chinese divers are usually very consistent and give nothing away.

"It will be hard for the others to deny them the gold. They managed to score 340 points in the trials for the world championships.

"I am not surprised if China can clean sweep all the gold medals (13 in total) at stake this time."

Malaysia's potential rivals include Australia, who will see veteran Melissa Wu combining with Charli Petrov, while the United States have Tokyo Olympic silver medallist Delaney Schnell pairing up with Katrina Young.

Indeed, the women's 10m platform synchro is still the best chance for Malaysia to make the podium, while there may be an outside chance to spring a surprise in the mixed synchro events.

Pandelela is combining with Hanis Nazirul Jaya Surya for the 10m platform mixed synchro, while Wendy Ng Yan Yee will join forces with Mohd Syafiq Puteh for the 3m springboard mixed synchro.

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