RTG boost for diver Pandelela and rider Azizulhasni

KUALA LUMPUR: Winning two bronze medals at the recent Asian Games completed a personal mission for diver Pandelela Rinong, who ended a painstaking 13-year wait for a medal in the individual event.

Heading to the Hangzhou Asiad with little preparation after a shoulder injury threatened to derail her chances, the Sarawakian was nevertheless intent on finishing on the podium.

Her hard work paid off with a first bronze in the 10m synchro platform with partner Nur Dhabitah Sabri, before she claimed another in the 10m individual platform event.

The second one was extra special.

"The Asian Games in Hangzhou has been a blessing for me, especially since I had to pull out of the last edition (in Jakarta) due to injury. To make it sweeter, I also won a bronze in the individual event which I have been waiting for 13 years," said the 30-year-old.

Pandelela's preparations were helped by the support rendered by the Road to Gold (RTG) programme, created to develop the country's first gold medallist at next year's Paris Olympics through a comprehensive support service.

Even though the 2016 Olympic silver medallist missed out on qualifying for Paris at the World Championships last July, the RTG continued to aid her preparations for the Asian Games.

"Despite not qualifying from the first Olympic qualifiers, due to being part of RTG, the support and services didn't stop there. With RTG's openness to address my injury and the specific rehabilitation allowed me to recover from my injury, improve my strength and confidence to prepare better for the Asian Games.

"For now, my focus is to strengthen my body and get fitter through an injury prevention programme to be at my peak for the ultimate goal to make it for my fifth appearance at the Olympics next year.

"The Olympics is a dream and goal that motivates me to give my best in training. But first, I will focus on the final Olympic qualifiers at the 2024 World Aquatics Championships in Doha (Feb 2-18)," Pandelela added.

National track cycling head coach John Beasley, meanwhile, was also pleased with Azizulhasni Awang and Shah Firdaus Sharom's pursuit of Olympic qualification.

"We are little over halfway through the Paris Olympic qualification process, and we are in a good situation to qualify two spots to the Paris Olympics," said Beasley, who was grateful for the swift response given to Azizul when he crashed during training just before the Asian Games.

"The process was made easy, as it only took a call to the RTG management to explain the course of action planned, and we got to move forward with the treatment.

This is a great example of how a high performance programme should work to best assist our high achievers," the Australian added.

Due to the efficient treatment Azizul received, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics silver medallist who suffered a hip injury and bruises, was back to light training just days after the accident.

Azizul is currently ranked third and sixth respectively in the keirin and sprint world rankings, while Shah Firdaus ranked 12th and 19th respectively in the keirin and sprint categories.

Azizul will bid to qualify for his fifth Olympics at the 2024 qualifying events which are the Nations Cup 1 & 2 in Adelaide, Australia and Hong Kong in February and March respectively.

Shah Firdaus will set sights on a second Olympic appearance through both those events and also the Asian Championships in New Delhi (Feb 21-26, 2024).

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