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DIVING BRONZE: Pandelela is first malaysian woman to win olympic medal
LONDON: MALAYSIANS woke up yesterday to news of the nation’s first non-badminton Olympic medal when diver Pandelela Rinong delivered the 10m platform bronze in stunning fashion.
The 19-year-old had to overcome enormous pressure after a poor first dive left her in 10th place in the 12-diver field.
News of the victory came about 3am when she leapt to third place, and in contention for a medal, in her final dive.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, were among those who were greeted with wonderful news when they awoke for sahur (pre-dawn meal) yesterday.
Judging from the many posts on social media websites, many Malaysians stayed up to watch the pulsating encounter.
Such has been the Sarawakian’s instant celebrity status that netizens collectively shouted down someone who had posted a dim prediction of her chances. The man was forced to deactivate his Facebook account.
The prime minister, on a scheduled visit to Sarawak later in the day, met Pandelela’s father, Pamg Joheng.
Earlier, Najib put in perspective the inspirational medal, tweeting: “Great performance by Pandelela. First Malaysian woman to win an Olympic medal.” Pandelela said her only regret was that her mother, Hartini Lamin, was not in the stands to see her receive her bronze medal.
Hartini, 44, had to leave for the airport after the semi-finals (she could not get a ticket for the final) and was thousands of metres in the air when Pandelela staged her fightback.
Even when Pandelela met Malaysian pic Pan- media yesterday at 9am(4pminMalaysia), delela pulsa- 9am (4pm in Malaysia), she had yet to speak to her mother.
“I tried calling but her phone was switched off. I believe she has not landed yet, which means she probably doesn’t know that I’ve won the bronze,” said Pandelela, her eyes tearing.
The tears quickly dried up though as Pandelela will have plenty of time to catch up with her family upon returning to Malaysia on Tuesday.
“There is so much that I want to do. I want a long holiday as we started preparing for the Olympics a long time ago and we had to make so many sacrifices,” said the 19-year-old, who hails from Bau, Sarawak.
"This medal is reward for the years of work that had been put in and I am so proud that I was able to deliver for Malaysia. I would like to thank all Malaysians for supporting and believing in me. My coach (Yang Zhuliang), the National Sports Council and the National Sports Institute have all played major roles in my career -- I would like to express my appreciation to them."
Pandelela's journey towards an Olympic medal began when she was only 9 and was identified by Sarawak coach Wang Jin Lan as a potential diver.
"He selected me after conducting some flexibility tests and drafted me into the national programme. I owe a lot to Wang for he was my mentor in the early days."
Coincidentally, Wang coached Australian silver medallist Brittany Broben.
Pandelela won the bronze with a total score of 359.20, while Broben had 366.50. China's Chen Ruolin was the runaway winner with 422.30 points.
Pandelela said her initial forays jumping of a 10m platform were frightening.
"It was not easy as looking down from the platform can be scary but being very young then, I quickly conquered my fears.
"It is not an easy sport, but I hope that my bronze medal is proof that Malaysians can excel in diving. I also hope that this will convince more to consider diving as a career," she added.
The Olympic bronze means Pandelela has won a medal at every level of the sport, and her London success will be rewarded with RM100,000 from the government and a monthly pension of RM2,000, which starts next month.