Malaysian Olympic diving medallist ‘hit coach with slipper after he kicked her’
The brawl was over a volleyball game as the country reels from claims that another China-born coach allowed ‘an environment of rape and sexual harassment’ to prevail
Malaysia’s Olympic silver medallist Pandelela Rinong hit coach Huang Qiang with a slipper after he kicked her in a row over a volleyball game, local media reported as the country reels from claims that there was a climate of fear “inviting rape and sexual harassment” in the diving community.
National coach and former China coach Yang Zhuliang, whose contract is not being renewed for “allowing” such an environment to prevail, told the Malay Mail that he was aware of a fight between Pandelela and Huang, who is due to go on trial after being accused of raping a 20-year-old diver. China-born Huang has pleaded not guilty.
Yang denied Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin’s claim that he allowed a “culture and environment [that] caused cases of rape, sexual harassment, violence, beatings, bullying and threats”.
Former China national coach Yang said, though, that he was aware of the incident involving Pandelela and Huang but did not know when it happened.
“They were actually playing volleyball. The rule was the loser would be kicked. However, I did not play. When Pandelela lost, Huang kicked her,” Yang was quoted as saying.
“Pandelela scolded Huang. He asked Pandelela ‘what it was all about’ and she scolded him again.
“Huang lost his temper and kicked Pandelela again. Pandelela took her slippers and brushed it on Huang’s face. They started fighting and both had to be pulled apart by the other divers.”
The 53-year-old coach told the daily that side activities and games involving athletes and coaches were banned after that incident.
Yang joined as Malaysia’s head diving coach in 2008 and guided Pandelela to the 2012 London Olympics women’s 10m platform bronze. At the 2016 Rio Games, Pandelela combined with Cheong Jun Hoong to win a silver medal in the women’s synchronised 10m platform competition.
Cheong also won gold at the 2017 world championship in Budapest in the women’s 10m platform.
Last week, Khairy released a statement clarifying the reason Yang’s contract, which expires on December 31, would not be renewed after earlier reports suggested that his methods were too “old school”.
“The main reason why Zhuliang’s contract as national diving head coach was not renewed was because of a culture and environment of fear among some of our diving athletes. This culture and environment had caused cases of rape, sexual harassment, violence, beatings, bullying and threats,” Khairy said in a statement.
“Although Zhuliang himself was not involved in those things, he had allowed them to spread uncontrollably even though several warnings had been issued to him and another coach who was quite close to him.
“After that coach was charged in the Kuala Lumpur sessions court on October 11 2017 under Section 376(1) of the Penal Code for the offence of raping a national diving athlete, the environment and surroundings of the national diving team’s training became more complicated,” the minister added.
Yang express shock at the statement, saying he doesn’t mix with divers after training and does not know about their personal lives. He said he was unable to control everything that happened within the Malaysian diving set-up.