KOTA KINABALU: A veterinary research technician from California was crowned Miss Scuba International (MSI) 2017 at the grand finale here on Saturday.
Representing the United States, Britanny Anne Novick beat 15 other contestants for the title, wowing the judges, particularly during the question-and-answer period.
She also won the subsidiary title of Miss Marine Conservation.
The 25-year-old takes over ambassadorial work from MSI 2016 Varsha Rajkhowan, to continue promoting the diving industry and marine conservation globally.
The prestigious annual beauty pageant, which focuses on encouraging women to dive and participate in marine conservation, was held at the Magellan Sutera Habour here for the seventh time.
Present at the event were Sabah Tourism, Culture, and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun; Sabah Tourism Board chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai; and MSI founder and president Robert Lo.
"I'm absolutely shocked. This is an amazing opportunity and a great experience. I can't wait to embark on this journey.
"I look forward to going back to my home country and inspire as many young women as possible to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics because they are worth it," Novick told reporters.
A passionate diver for the past five years, the 170cm-tall knockout works for non-profit organisations in the US on matters pertaining to conservation
"I am also a marine conservation biologist and we do a lot of conservation work for marine mammals; and I also do mammal rescue, rehabilitation, and release," she said, adding that she is a certified rescue diver.
On marine issues, Novick stressed that plastic pollution is one of the biggest issues in the US, which she hopes to address in her ambassadorial work.
At the event, Alexandra Talbot Prior, 25, from the United Kingdom, secured the first runner-up spot; while Magda Jenthena, 23, from Latvia grabbed the second runner-up position.
Other subsidiary titles went to Alice Nelly Portevin of France (Miss Talented), Sherlyn Doloriel of the Philippines (Miss Photogenic), and Kuenga Lhaden of Bhutan (Miss Congeniality).
Earlier in his speech, Lo said that being a state rich in land and marine biodiversity, Sabah has an opportunity to showcase its offerings through MSI.
"MSI is not just a beauty pageant, but an opportunity for young ladies to inspire and lead a greater audience.
"With the invaluable experience and exposure gained from this journey, I hope that it will impact these young ladies positively, for a lifetime," he added.