Don't blame Pandelela, blame ourselves, says Pekan

KUALA LUMPUR: Sports analyst Datuk Dr Pekan Ramli has stressed that diver Pandelela Rinong should not be faulted for Malaysia's failure to qualify a diver for the Paris Olympics in the women's 10m platform individual event.

Pekan said Malaysia has been overly reliant on Pandelela, who made her Olympic debut at Beijing 2008, to deliver results in the event over the last five Olympic cycles.

Pandelela, who turns 31 next month, previously won bronze in the event at London 2012 and silver in the 10m platform synchronised with Cheong Jun Hoon at Rio 2016.

"I sympathise with Pandelela, we all know she has worked very hard over the years to deliver results for the country," said Pekan when contacted today.

"She doesn't have to be disappointed or feel that she has let anyone down, because she has already contributed a lot to Malaysian diving over the years, including her two Olympic medals.

"She was one of the oldest competitors in the event at the Doha World Championships. China's top divers are mostly in their teens, what more are we expecting from her?

"We should not blame her for not qualifying for Paris, we should blame ourselves. Why have we not produced divers capable of replacing her until now? It has already been five Olympics since she made her debut."

Pandelela settled for a lowly 29th in the preliminary round of the event at the Doha World Aquatics Championships on Sunday and missed the top-18 cut for the semi-finals for the second year in a row.

Youngster Nur Eilisha Rania Muhammad Abrar Raj, the only other Malaysian in the preliminaries, placed 44th.

The results meant that both divers did not qualify for Paris. Only the top-12 divers from this edition of the World Championships, not including those who have already qualified (15), secure a berth in Paris.

Previously, Malaysia had always qualified at least one diver in the event since Sydney 2000.

Pandelela still has a chance of qualifying for Paris in the 10m platform synchronised event, partnering Nur Dhabitah Sabri, in Doha tomorrow.

Pekan suggested that Pandelela could play a role in developing the next generation of talent in the platform discipline.

"At the moment, it appears tough for Datuk Pandelela to be in contention for medals at the world level," said Pekan.

"She, however, can still be a medal contender at the Asian or Southeast Asian level over the next few years. This could be a turning point for her to think about what her plans are for the long term.

"Perhaps she can move into a mentoring role now for the juniors and look to develop divers as a coach in the future and create her own legacy in the sport."

In addition to her Olympic medals, Pandelela has also won seven medals at the World Championships, the last of which (silver) was won during the 2019 Gwangju edition.

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