Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the contract of Yang Zhuliang, the country’s diving head coach, was not extended due to the existence of a culture and environment of fear among some national diving athletes.
He said Zhuliang allowed the culture and environment to spread to the point of inviting rape, sexual harassment, violence, beatings, bullying and threats to athletes, even though the Chinese-born trainer was not involved in the matter.
Khairy said the training environment and atmosphere of the national squad team became more complicated after a trainer, who was close to Zhuliang, was charged at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court on Oct 11 with raping a national athlete
“After the rape case, I asked Marina Chin to investigate how such a thing could be avoided in the national sport. Her investigation showed the existence of a toxic culture, which is shrouded in fear, in the diving sport.
“My responsibility as a minister is not merely to make a policy in order to achieve success in sports at a high level, but also to safeguard the welfare of national athletes and protect them from any threat. No gold medal is worth more than the national athlete’s safety,” he said in a statement posted on his Facebook page today.
The media earlier reported that Zhuliang’s contract, which would end on Dec 31, was not renewed by the National Sports Institute (ISN) as he failed to follow the sports science approach, and due to tensions between him and an ISN officer.
Khairy said he made the decision after hearing the concerns and recommendations of ISN, the Malaysian Amateur Swimming Association (ASUM) and the National Sports Council (MSN).
He said a coach from Australia would assist the existing coach, Zhang Yukun, who will carry out his duties as head coach in preparation for the 2018 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.
“I instructed the ISN to take care of the image and reputation of all parties so that this announcement does not bring negative impressions of Malaysian sports. Perhaps because of the directive, the ISN cannot provide a complete and detailed explanation of the issue.
“The new lineup of coaches has been asked to fully integrate all aspects of sports science, such as conditioning, mental training, biomechanical analysis and nutrition aspects, that have not been fully utilised before,” he said.
Zhuliang is a familiar name among diving sports activists because he had guided the country’s squad to many successes on the world stage since arriving in the country in 2001.
He guided the country’s former diving athlete, Bryan Nickson Lomas, who won the 10m platform title at the 2004 World Junior Championship in Brazil, and decided to accept a job offer in Australia after helping the national squad to become the overall champions at the 2005 SEA Games in Manila.
The 53-year-old returned to coach the national team in 2008 and brought success to the national team, including helping Pandelela Rinong-Cheong Jun Hoong reap the silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, and helping Jun Hoong win the gold medal at the 2017 World Aquatic Championships in Budapest, Hungary in July.-BERNAMA