FOCUSED: Flagbearer wants to cap London outing with podium finish
PANDELELA Rinong regards winning a medal in the Olympics as more important than being Malaysia's flag bearer in the opening ceremony.
The 19-year-old diver, who returned home from a training stint in Guangzhou to attend the Olympics flag-handing ceremony yesterday, will be competing in the women's 10-metre platform, 10m synchronised platform with Leong Mun Yee and 3-metre springboard with Cheong Jun Hoong.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak handed the Jalur Gemilang to chef-de-mission Tan Sri Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid who then handed it to Pandelela in a ceremony held at Putrajaya yesterday.
Pandelela will focus on the individual platform in which she is the reigning Commonwealth Games champion. She also took bronze in the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou and will go all out for a medal in that event.
Although she has the experience of competing in her pet event in the Beijing Games four years ago, Pandelela feels like a first-timer for the London Olympics as she has the chance to make history by winning a diving medal for Malaysia.
"It is an honour to be Malaysia's flag bearer in the Olympics but it is more important to win a medal in London. I cannot guarantee I will win a medal but I want to fight all the way to achieve that goal," said Pandelela.
"The pressure is there but I don't want to think too much about it. I am quite optimistic because I have improved a lot during the two-month stint in Guangzhou where I have been training under Yang Zhulian. I will return tomorrow (today) to continue my preparation until July 20 when I will return to Kuala Lumpur.
"I am banking on the individual platform which is my pet event and if I can perform and minimise mistakes, I have a chance.
"It also feels like I am competing in my first Olympics as I didn't really do well in Beijing but I will go all out for medal in London."
Najib also gave words of encouragement in his speech where he urged the athletes to go all out to fulfil the expectations of Malaysians who will be praying for their success in the Olympics.
"Whenever Malaysian athletes step into the arena, they know that 27.5 million Malaysians are behind them," said Najib.
He said the government was committed to athletes excelling on the world stage and said the incentive scheme, which offers RM1 million to a gold medallist, was one way of showing support.
Also present was Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and other Cabinet Ministers.
Malaysia goes into the Olympics with reasonable medal chances in archery, badminton, cycling and diving.
A total of eight divers have qualified for the London Games where Pandelela is Malaysia's best medal prospect but she also has an outside chance of securing medal with Mun Yee in the 3m synchronised springboard.
Malaysia's other medal hopes rest with Bryan Nickson Lomas and Huang Qiang in the 3m synchronised springboard event.
Yeoh Ken Nee, Traisy Vivien Tukiet and Wendy Ng are the other divers who have qualified for the Olympics.
Pandelela is also the first Malaysian female athlete to carry the Jalur Gemilang at the opening ceremony of the Olympics but her bigger objective is to return with a medal from London.
Overall, 30 atheletes from eight sports have qualified for the Olympics while 33 athletes will be competing in the Paralympics.