SINGAPORE - After having to navigate trials and tribulations, Singaporean diver Freida Lim is tantalisingly close to getting her hands on that coveted ticket to the Tokyo Olympics. She will become Singapore's first female diver at the quadrennial sports extravaganza if her spot is confirmed in June.
With a five-dive score of 289.60, she placed 11th out of 35 athletes in the women's 10m platform preliminary at the Fina Diving World Cup in Tokyo on Tuesday (May 4) to qualify for Wednesday's 18-strong semi-finals.
At this competition, up to 18 Olympic spots per event are up for grabs for each country which has not already secured two places, which means the 23-year-old is a good semi-final performance away from qualifying and is awaiting Fina confirmation on the remaining quota.
National diving head coach Li Peng said yesterday that he was "very satisfied" with her performance. He added: "Freida did well overall in the prelim. There were small mistakes in her first and final dives, but she was near flawless for the dives in between, which helped her score."
As a child, Lim was a competitive swimmer until she was diagnosed with Grave's disease - an autoimmune disorder that leads to an overactive thyroid gland, also known as hyperthyroidism - when she was 13.
While her thyroid function normalised after two years through medication, she had to switch to a less endurance-based sport and chose diving because of her affinity for the pool.
Lim's diving potential was affirmed when she claimed a silver with Myra Lee in the women's synchronised 10m platform and a bronze in the women's 10m platform at the 2015 SEA Games on home soil.
She followed that up with four silver medals in those two events, as well as the mixed synchronised 10m platform and mixed team events with Jonathan Chan at the 2017 SEA Games.
In 2016, she was awarded a full athletic scholarship at Clemson University in the United States and became the first Singaporean diver to compete in the top division of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) system.
However, after her freshman year, she was left scrambling for a new school after Clemson abruptly dropped its diving programme.
Fortunately, she was picked up by University of Georgia, where she enjoyed an impressive NCAA career. In 2018/19, Lim finished 15th in the NCAA Championships platform final and earned an Honorable Mention All-America citation.
If she makes it to the Olympics, Lim will be joined in Tokyo by fellow trailblazer Chan, who was the first Singaporean diver to qualify for the Games, when he did so in 2019 to also become the first Singaporean athlete to earn a spot at the 2020 Games.
Wendy Lim, Singapore Swimming Association vice-president (diving) said: "Freida's performance today shows that the good work done by the diving high performance team over the last few years has paid off."
She also credited Lim for achieving the best result by a Singaporean female diver at a world meet despite not competing in a major competition since the 2019 SEA Games.
"We are pleased that Freida has managed to get into the semi finals of her event. We hope that she can carry on her good performance in the semis tomorrow," added the diving official.
How spots at the Olympics are determined
For diving, there are a total of 136 slots for divers - 68 male and 68 female.
Synchronised will have eight teams per event and there is a total of 32 divers per gender.
Individuals will qualify via a top-12 placing at the World Championships and top-five finish at continental championships.
The remaining spots will depend on the number of quota spots left, dependent on the actual names submitted by each federation. This will only be confirmed by Fina in June.