SEA Games: Diver Avvir Tham, 17, wins Singapore's first medal in Hanoi

Singapore diver Avvir Tham executing a dive during the men's 1m individual springboard event at the Hanoi SEA Games on May 9, 2022. PHOTO: SPORT SINGAPORE/ANDY CHUA

SINGAPORE - Retired SEA Games medallists Mark and Timothy Lee are not with the Singapore contingent in Vietnam this year, but the twins’ presence is still very much felt in the diving team. 

Avvir Tham, who won Singapore’s first medal at the Hanoi Games – a silver in the 1m individual springboard – credited them for his success on Monday (May 9).

The 17-year-old said he has always looked up to the Lees and even though they have hung up their swimming trunks, he is still taking advice from them. 

He told The Straits Times: “Throughout the competition, I zoned out and didn’t take note of how my competitors were doing or my placing. 

“That’s something they taught me. I used to keep track of my scores but they taught me to think about each step slowly instead.”

The Ngee Ann Polytechnic business student scored 286.40 points to finish second in his SEA Games debut at the My Dinh Water Sports Palace.

Defending champion Ooi Tze Liang of Malaysia won the gold (377.70), while compatriot Bertrand Rhodict Anak Lises took the bronze (284.90).

Tham, who first took up diving aged seven, had entered the Singapore Swimming Association’s talent identification development squad aged 10 and joined the national development squad at 14, when he got to train with the Lee twins.

Recalling those times, he said: “I was young and playful, but once I trained with them, it made me want to do this sport well. 

“That’s what I picked up from them– there’s no easy way out.”

Watching the twins compete at the SEA Games and winning multiple medals both individually and as a pair also inspired Tham to follow in their footsteps.

“I’m really happy that my hard work has paid off and it means a lot that I’m the one to carry on their legacy and I hope to do better and take it further,” said Tham, who also listens to artistes like Selena Gomez and Maroon 5 between dives to keep calm and focused.

He will turn his attention next to the 3m individual springboard tomorrow, but he is also hoping to follow Jonathan Chan and Freida Lim’s path by qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics. 

Last year, Chan and Lim became the first Singaporean divers to compete on sport’s grandest stage.

Tham, who also hopes to win a medal at the Asian Games, added: “(For the 3m event), I’m going to keep things as usual, stay focused and not put more pressure on myself. I won’t let this medal change or affect anything.

“(Chan and Lim’s Olympic debuts) give a sense of hope to divers, just like how Joseph Schooling won (at Rio 2016), it gives hope that Singapore athletes can make it and can compete on the world stage with other top-class athletes.”

In the women’s 3m synchronised springboard, Ashlee Tan and Fong Kay Yian finished third with 229.41 points. However, only the gold and silver medals were awarded as three pairs competed in the event. 

Ng Yan Yee and Ong Ker Ying added a fourth diving gold for Malaysia, scoring 276.30 points after five dives. 

Vietnam’s Mai Hong Hanh and Ngo Phuong Mai finished second with 237.57 points.

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