The mere mention of Nur Dhabitah Sabri’s name is sure to put a smile on anyone’s face.
That’s how much the national diver touched the hearts of many with her sweet smile at the Rio Olympic Games.
At every attempt, she would flash the now famous wide grin. Whether her dive was great or not, she would smile from ear to ear.
But behind that winsome smile lies a very determined 17-year-old.
One who plans to light up Malaysian sports with many more splashing shows in the near future.
“The Olympic Games experience has changed me,” admitted Dhabitah with a sparkle in her eyes.
“It has put this new fire in me to work harder. It has instilled confidence in me to go out and achieve much more and go further in my diving career.
“But I’m still the same person, still the same happy-go-lucky girl ... nothing has changed,” she smiled.
The Kuala Lumpur lass performed beyond expectations in her maiden Olympic outing – reaching the top-12 final in the 10m individual platform.
She finished ninth – ahead of her senior Pandelela Rinong – in the final.
Pandelela, who had bagged silver with Cheong Jun Hoong in the 10m platform synchro a few days earlier, was 11th.
In Rio, Dhabitah also competed in the women’s 3m springboard synchro with Jun Hoong, but they missed out on a medal.
Ironically, this friendly face did not have many friends during her childhood.
“My childhood was not so good ... no one wanted to be my friend, maybe because of the way I looked. I had this short haircut and used to wear boys’ clothes,” she recalled.
“So, I started hanging out with my brother and his friends. We used to play in the water a lot.”
That, to her, was the turning point.
Her parents managed to convince her and her elder brother, Muhd Danial to take up diving because of their love for the water.
She said that her 19-year-old brother has remained her great support, a pillar of strength in her diving career, besides her parents.
“When I’m not diving, I hang out with my brother,” she said.
Asked what kind of things they would do together, she says that they enjoyed parkour – an outdoor training regime.
Parkour is a discipline where training consists of a mash-up of running, gymnastics and tumbling outdoors.
“We just find a place and train... it’s fun,” she said.
“Truly, my family has really been a great influence in my diving career.”
So close is their bond that her family even tagged along with her to watch the Big Bang concert – all because she is madly in love with the Korean boy band.
“I love Korean songs. In fact, I have memorised some of them. I sing them ... the songs calm my nerves,” she said.
Dhabitah has now set her eyes on raising the bar next year.
She will be competing in the World Diving series, SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur and, eventually, the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Dhabitah knows that she wouldn’t be where she is without the encouragement of her team-mates.
“I want to improve my diving skills and perform better in all my international competitions.
“I’m glad that I have wonderful team-mates like Pandelela, Jun Hoong and others. They are my role models. They always give me tips and are very supportive. We are like one big happy family.”
Before the Rio Olympics, Dhabitah struggled with her low confidence. Now, after her Olympic exploits, she knows that nothing is impossible.
“I could never have imagined competing in an Olympic Games. But after Rio, I’m aiming for a medal at the Tokyo Games,” she said.
“I hope that my results will continue to bring joy to all Malaysians.”