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PRIVILEGE: Pandelela denies Chong Wei the honour of being Malaysia's flag bearer
THE Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) yesterday selected diver Pandelela Rinong as Malaysia's flag bearer for the London Olympics ahead of the people's favourite, Lee Chong Wei.
OCM executive board members voted in favour of Pandalela, through emails to their president, Tunku Imran Tuanku Ja'afar.
The Sarawakian will become Malaysia's first female athlete to have the honour of carrying the Jalur Gemilang during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London on July 27.
Pandelela was the overwhelming choice as nine out of the 12 executive board members voted for her while five other OCM officials did not take part in the ballot which was carried out for the first time.
"As far as I am concerned, both athletes deserve the honour but the executive board took the competition schedule as well as Chong Wei's injury, into consideration.
"It was 9-3 in favour of Pandelela and it was also the first time the selection of the flag bearer for the Olympics be decided on ballots," said Tunku Imran.
"The men's singles competition starts one day after the opening ceremony and the board members don't want Chong Wei's focus to be disrupted and wanted him to concentrate on his event.
"He has also recovered from a shoulder injury and we wouldn't want to put further burden on him as the opening ceremony will stretch to four hours."
The BA of Malaysia had appealed to OCM on Monday that Chong Wei, appearing in his third and final Olympics, be given the honour as the flag bearer.
BAM had also highlighted the fact that Chong Wei, being the top seed, will only play his group match (which consists of another player) on July 29.
Pandelela's selection yesterday came as no surprise as she was already announced as Malaysia's flag bearer by chef-de-mission Tan Sri Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid and NSC director general Datuk Seri Zolkples Embong last Friday.
Chong Wei accepted OCM's decision graciously and was all praise for Pandelela who is considered a medal prospect in London.
The World No 2 also confirmed he will attend the opening ceremony despite being overlooked by OCM and the National Sports Council.
"She (Pandelela) is a wonderful athlete and I would say she deserves the honour. In fact, all those athletes who have qualified for the Olympics are deserving candidates," said Chong Wei.
"She has done well for diving and has put Malaysia on the world map. I have no issue with the selection in her favour as I, too, admire her achievements.
"I had decided before no matter what the decision by OCM, I will attend the opening ceremony and I will stick to it. This is my last Olympics and I want to enjoy every moment of it.
"Being the flag bearer is not an important issue and my objective in London is to give my best in the competition."
Pandelela is the second diver after Bryan Nickson Lomas, the flag bearer in Athens in 2004, to be given the honour of carrying the Jalur Gemilang on July 27.