Diving: Olympian Jonathan Chan to retire after 2022 SEA Games

Jonathan Chan will focus on looking for a job in the design industry after the SEA Games. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Grinning from ear to ear as he announced his retirement plans on Sunday (April 10), Jonathan Chan plans to enjoy his "last hurrah" at the SEA Games in Hanoi.

He will have one last task before hanging up his swimming trunks - pairing up with 14-year-old Max Lee in the men's 10m synchronised platform at the May 12-23 event.

A five-time SEA Games medallist, the 24-year-old had been prepared to make the Tokyo Olympics his swansong but was asked to stay on in order to compete with Max.

Speaking at the Singapore National Diving Championships, Chan said: "I want to enjoy the sport now because I haven't been enjoying it for a while. There's not much nerves (before the Games) but it'll be different because we can't go out to eat and celebrate after the competition.

"But it will be nice to see the South-east Asian divers in action because we haven't seen them for a while so I'm looking forward to that."

Chan, who won two silvers and two bronzes at his last SEA Games outing in 2017, will focus on looking for a job in the design industry after the Games.

Max, who began competing with Chan in December 2020, was grateful to his senior for being an encouraging partner who was always ready to give his advice.

The duo were the only divers in their event at the OCBC Aquatic Centre on Sunday and scored 320.16 points.

While they appeared calm and focused, Chan recalled their first time competing internationally as a pair - last May's Fina Diving World Cup in Japan - where Max was so tense that Chan had to give him a shake before the first few dives.

Chan recalled: "He was very stressed, I think it being his first international competition, it was a big step up. I always tell him to focus on the upcoming dives, instead of the dives already done, especially during the competition.

"He also liked to count our points and he would ask what the score is after each dive but I told him those things aren't important and to just focus on the dives."

Max said: "It was really scary and I didn't know how to react so I was freaking out. He's very supportive and when I'm scared, he would tell me it's OK and to just do my best.

Jonathan Chan (right) and Max Lee compete in the mens Open Synchronised Platform at the OCBC Aquatic Centre on April 10, 2022. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

"I'm definitely more confident now. There are some nerves but I'm very excited to attend the SEA Games. The medals don't matter for now, we just want to try our best and focus on the competition itself then I'll be happy with whatever result we get."

Six other Singaporean divers will compete in Hanoi: 2019 women's 3m synchronised springboard silver medallists Ashlee Tan and Fong Kay Yian, newcomers Avvir Tham (men's 3m springboard), Mira Dewan (women's 1m springboard) and twins Ong Rei En and Sze En (women's 10m synchronised platform).

Fong will also compete in the 1m and 3m springboard.

Tan and Fong were not entirely satisfied with their performance at the championships after scoring 213 points, which was below their silver-winning score of 228.06 in the Philippines in 2019.

But they are confident of at least retaining their silver and plan to continue working on the consistency and timing of their dives.

Head coach Li Peng is targeting at least three medals - one from each synchronised event - and said the main focus will be getting the athletes mentally ready while working on their competition dives.

Ong Sze En (left) and Ong Rei En competing in the Womens Open Synchronised Platform at the OCBC Aquatic Centre on April 10, 2022. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

He added: "There have been no big international competitions the last two years, so mental preparation is especially important for the younger ones.

"They need to learn to calm themselves down and show their training selves during the competition. We will simulate the competition setting in training also so that they will get more used to it."

Li, 55, also acknowledged that standards are bound to dip as veterans like Chan step down but hopes that the new generation will be ready to step up soon.

"The next two years will be hardest for Singapore diving as it is the transition period. We have been recruiting in the last few years but the new divers are 11 or 12 years old so it will take some time to push them up."

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