KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 17 — Sad, shocked and speechless. That summed up national women’s diver Nur Dhabitah Sabri’s emotions after it was announced that her coach Christian Brooker is set to leave the diving camp soon.

Describing the Australian coach as akin to her “own father” in diving, the 22-year-old athlete said Brooker’s departure was indeed a big loss as he was the one who made her fall in love with diving once more after she had endured such a torrid time previously.

This, Nur Dhabitah said, was due to the fact that she almost gave up diving more than a year ago.

It was Brooker’s “never say die” spirit that made her pick herself up and start again.

“Because of him, I started to love diving again. I almost gave up and felt that diving was useless, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic hit worldwide.

“It was really tense to train under the sports bubble concept and the fact that I had to part ways with my family for a while made me feel more sad. But I was glad to have Brooker around as he always encouraged and boosted my spirit to participate in Japan,” she told Bernama when contacted today.

The Kuala Lumpur-born athlete said she will definitely miss the 40-year-old coach as he was easy to communicate with, and she felt at ease sharing her problems with him, be it professional or personal issues.

Not only that, Nur Dhabitah, who had been under the tutelage of Brooker since 2018, admitted that she never had a dull moment with him and appreciated the way he infused more joy and fun elements in their training sessions.

“He was very supportive, he was not rough towards us — what more saying mean words during training. He always gave me and other divers freedom and was easy to discuss with on any changes that we feel better suit us as the divers.

“I like the way he handled the setback in Tokyo Olympics recently; he never holds grudges and still offers positive feedback regardless of the outcome,” she added.

Despite missing out on winning a medal for the country in her second Olympics in Japan, Nur Dhabitah stole the hearts of Malaysians with her commendable performance and radiant smile at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre last month.

In the women’s 3-metre springboard individual final, she came close to winning the bronze medal before ending up fourth with 326.15 points, behind reigning champion Shi Tingmao (383.50 pts), Wang Han (348.75 pts), both from China, and American Krysta Palmer (343.75 pts).

Asked on her final training session with Brooker last Monday, the 2018 Asian Games silver medallist said Brooker was happy to see where he left things off at the moment and told the divers that he will still be reachable should they need any advice from him.

Nur Dhabitah hoped that the next coach will be more open to receive any ideas, easy to communicate with and can build a good understanding with her and her teammates.

Recently, several media outlets reported that the National Sports Council (NSC) would not be extending Brooker’s contract as the coach for the elite diving team, which is slated to end after this month.

It is believed that the failure of the men’s divers to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics was the reason why the decision was made on Brooker, who was brought in to assist China’s coach Zhang Yukun after former national head coach Yang Zhuliang left in late 2017.

The Tokyo Olympics was the first time since Sydney 2000 that Malaysia did not have any male representatives at the world’s biggest multi-sports event. — Bernama