MORE than a month after her stunning defeat in the 25th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Laos, diver Sheila Mae Perez is still hurting deep inside.

"It's still painful. I was really cheated. It's hard to forget," Perez told Sun.Star Davao in the vernacular in a phone interview Tuesday.

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The 24-year-old Filipino diver, who hails from Davao City, failed to defend her three-meter springboard title in the Laos edition of the SEA Games last month to settle for the silver medal.

She said unfair judging hurt her chances in the finals that saw an unheralded athlete from Vietnam capturing the gold medal.

Perez had topped the events in the 2005 and 2007 staging of the biennial meet and a victory in Laos would have netted her a third straight gold. She lost to Vietnam's Thanh Tra Hoang by only four points.

Perez said she had already been through a lot in her diving career since making her SEAG debut in 1999 in Brunei. She also had two Olympic and two Asian Games stints to her credit.

"I've been through many challenges in the past. But what happened in Laos was the worst thing to ever happen in my career," Perez lamented.

"I really cried after the results came out. I was not after the prize money had I won the gold. I and my teammates were out to prove something," she added.

The lady diver said Team Philippines wanted to prove it can still be competitive despite the departure of its Chinese coach.

"We trained by ourselves and were not given the chance to train in China unlike in the past," Perez said.

She said the national diving team was left at the mercy of a young Filipino coach who served as assistant to Chinese coach Zhang Dehu before.

"It's not that we really need a Chinese coach though. It's just that we really need new techniques. Our training now is different from what we've learned from our Chinese coach," Perez said.

Perez and the rest of the Davao divers have resumed training at the Trace Aquatics Center since after competing in Laos.

"We hope that PSC (Philippine Sports Commission) will keep its promise of sending us to China for training for the Asian Games," she said.

The Davao athlete said they really need all the support they can get to boost their Asian Games preparations. She cited the time when former Dabawenyo PSC chair William "Butch" Ramirez was all out in supporting the divers' campaign.

"We really had no problems with Chairman Ramirez. He sent us to China for training. He knew just what we needed," Perez said.

On her personal training, Perez said she will have to improve the degree of difficulty of her two dives to ensure an impressive finish in the coming Asian Games.