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LONDON: Malaysia's desire for an Olympic medal -- from a sport other than badminton -- was fulfilled at the London Olympics Aquatic Centre in the early hours of Friday when diver Pandelela Rinong lived up to expectations to deliver the 10m platform bronze.
It was a magnificent medal to win, considering the pressure the 19-year-old was under after a poor first dive left her in 10th place in the 12-diver field.
Pandelela, however, heeded coach Yang Zhuliang's advise for her to remain calm and focus on her remaining dives and the Sarawakian slowly but surely pulled herself back into contention as her main challengers wilted.
In fact, had it not been for the first dive - which gave her only 58.50 points, Pandelela could have well won the silver as her final total of 359.20 points was not too far off silver medallist Brittany Broben of Australia's total of 366.50. China's Chen Ruolin was a runaway winner with 422.30.
Pandelela, however, was too excited to think about missing out on silver.
"This is a massive achievement for Malaysian diving and I am so proud of becoming the first Malaysian from outside badminton to win a medal at the Olympics for Malaysia. I can't believe it," said Pandelela.
After her first dive, Pandelela found the consistency she required as she scored 78.30, 64.00, 81.60 and 76.80. It was the fourth dive which pulled her back into reckoning and the fifth sealed her third place after Australia's Melissa Wu failed to achieve the score needed to overcome Pandelela.
"My coach told me to forget about the first dive, stay calm and focus on the remaining dives," said Pandelela, whose first thought was to call her family after fulfilling her media obligations.
"My mother, who was here, had returned home but I will call her once I find my phone."
The bronze means Pandelela has won a medal at every level, including a silver in the 10m platform at the 2010 Junior Olympics at Sydney.
It also means she will receive RM150,000 from the National Sports Council and a lifetime pension of RM2,000 monthly.
"I hope this inspires more Malaysians to take up the sport as diving can bring honour to Malaysia."
The nation certainly agrees, thanks to Pandelela.