SINGAPORE – Missing out on a medal may be disappointing for some, but coming in fourth in the 10m platform at the Fina World Junior Diving Championships marked a big step for Max Lee and Singapore diving.
The 15-year-old, who was the only Asian in the 12-diver final for the 14-15 age group in Montreal, Canada, on Saturday, scored 415.15 points to earn the best position by a Singaporean at the competition.
Ukraine’s Kirill Boliukh (476.90) won the event, ahead of Britain’s Jorden Fisher-Eames (442.90) and American Joshua Hedberg (438.80).
Max, a Singapore Sports School student, said: “During the final, I wasn’t really thinking about the placings but after the second-last dive, I saw my placing was fourth so for the last dive I thought, ‘Maybe I’ve got a shot’.
“But after I realised I got fourth, I was still happy.”
Tweaking the order of his dives after finishing eighth in the preliminary round also helped him do better in the final, said Max, who started diving at age six.
Ahead of his first world championships, he was not quite sure of what to expect because the pandemic meant that he did not know much about his competitors.
He also had to deal with nerves as he was worried that he would make a fool of himself.
To cope with that, Max tried to focus more on his dives and not pay too much attention to what his competitors were doing.
In between dives, he would put on his headset and listen to music from his favourite singer Billie Eilish.
“My dives were more consistent this competition so that’s one thing that went pretty well for me,” he said. “One takeaway I got from this trip was not to doubt myself too much – I was overthinking.
“It’s the world stage so (I was thinking about) whether I’d embarrass myself during the competition but I came up with fourth place so that’s not too bad. And that’s one thing that, going into the next competition, I’ll have to take note of and remind myself.”
Proving that he could hold his own against some of the world’s best junior divers was a boost to Max, who hopes to make it to the Olympics one day.
Earlier in May, he made his SEA Games debut in Hanoi and won a silver medal with Jonathan Chan in the men’s synchronised 10m platform.
But he is looking to do more individual events now.
He is eyeing qualification for the 2023 SEA Games in Cambodia and to do so, he will be working to increase the difficulty of his dives by including more turns and flips.
Max’s feat in Canada is the latest achievement by Singapore divers in recent years. At the 2020 Olympics, Chan and Freida Lim became the first divers from the Republic to feature at the quadrennial competition.
Kristel Wang, Singapore Swimming Association’s sport manager for diving, believes that Max’s performance in Canada is a sign that things are looking up for the discipline here.
She said: “It shows that the standard of Singapore diving is increasing and our divers are getting better at a younger age so this really preps the stage and shows everyone at the world level that Singapore is doing better.”