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Saturday June 30, 2012
By RAJES PAUL
KUALA LUMPUR: Young diver Pandelela Rinong will have the honour of being Malaysia’s flag bearer at the London Olympics.
Yesterday, chef-de-mission Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid announced that the diminutive Pandelela will lead the 28-member contingent during the opening ceremony on July 27.
Pandelela will be the country’s first woman to carry the flag in the Games.
Sarji said the selection was based on Pandelela’s excellence leading up to the Games. The Sportswoman of the Year has catapulted Malaysian diving to top world ranking with her consistent exploits over the last few years.
She also did well to finish as the runner-up to Olympic champion Chen Roulin of China in the recent four-leg World Diving Series.
“Pandelela is young and has been excellent in her field of sport. I met with the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) and we decided that she is the best candidate for the job,” said Sarji after visiting the Olympic-bound shuttlers at Stadium Juara in Bukit Kiara yesterday.
Sarji said Beijing Games silver medallist Lee Chong Wei had been the first choice to lead the contingent in his third and final Olympics but his competition schedule prevented it. Chong Wei’s campaign starts the day after the opening ceremony.
As for Pandelela, her competition begins on July 29 when she takes part in the women’s 3m springboard synchro with Cheong Jun Hoong.
“We decided that it was better to go with Pandelela as we don’t want to disturb Chong Wei’s focus,” he said.
The 19-year-old Pandelela, who will be competing in three disciplines at the London Games, was overjoyed with the news.
In a text message from China where she is training with the diving team, she said: “It’s great to be the flag bearer for my country at the London Games. It is such an honour.
“I’m very surprised with this news as there are more suitable athletes than me. I would like to thank OCM and NSC for giving me this chance to lead the Malaysian contingent.”
The selection will surely be an additional boost as Pandelela attempts to become the country’s first diving Olympic medal winner. She will also compete in the women’s 10m platform individual and synchro with Leong Mun Yee.
Sarji was happy with the commitment shown by shuttlers Chong Wei, Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong, Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying and Tee Jing Yi in training – with the Games only a month away.
“I met their coaches and spoke with all the players. It’s good to see Chong Wei showing steady progress. I observed him in training and he has the same agility in his game. We hope that he will be 100% fit by the start of the Games,” said Sarji.
“I have received good feedback on Koo and Tan too. Our singles player (Jing Yi) may have a low ranking but she is doing all that she can to be at her best. Our mixed pair (Peng Soon-Liu Ying) are also shaping up well.
“There are so many factors that can lead to an athlete winning a medal at the Games and, with the support of the people, I hope that our athletes will be able to deliver what is expected of them.”
Badminton is the only sport that has contributed medals in the Games.
It started with a bronze medal from Jalani and Razif Sidek at Barcelona 1992. Rashid Sidek nicked the bronze and Cheah Soon Kit-Yap Kim Hock the silver four years later in Atlanta.
Chong Wei ended a 12-year wait for a medal when he nailed the silver after losing to Lin Dan of China in Beijing 2008.
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