Diving: Max Lee finishes fourth at Fina world junior championships
Missing out on a medal may be disappointing for some, but coming in fourth in the men’s 10m platform at the Fina World Junior Diving Championships 2022 marked a big step for Max Lee and Singapore diving.
The 15-year-old, who was the only Asian in the 12-diver final in Montreal, Canada, on Saturday, scored 415.15 points to earn a fourth-place finish, the best performance by a Singaporean at the competition.
The event was won by Ukraine’s Kirill Boliukh (476.90), with Great Britain’s Jorden Fisher-Eames (442.90) and the United States’ Joshua Hedberg (438.80) second and third respectively.
Max, a Singapore Sports School student, said: “I had prelims first and got eighth place so I was just thinking let’s see what I can do first because during prelims I didn’t do so well for some of the dives so I was trying to calculate and it was reachable.
“During the finals, 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.”
Ahead of his first Fina World Junior Diving Championships, Max 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 his headset on and listen to music from his favourite singer Billie Eilish.
He said: “My dives were more consistent this competition so that’s one thing that went pretty well for me. 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’ll 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.”
After finishing eighth in the preliminary round, Max had also made some tweaks such as changing the order of his dives, which he feels helped his performance in the final.
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 this year, Max 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, Max will be working to increase the difficulty of his dives by including more turns and flips.
“I did quite well – this was one of the good competitions and opportunities I’ll be getting for the bigger Games in the future. This will encourage me to do better and work on my diving skills even more,” said Max, who picked up diving when he was about six years old.
“I’ve been focusing on individual dives which is more important in the long run. That is one of the main points for this year, going back to individual dives for future Games, be it Olympics or next year’s SEA Games.”
His 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.”