Pandalela and Cheong’s achievement in Olympics is historic given that they were the first women to win medal
WHAT a lovely surprise it was, waking up on Wednesday to the news that synchronised diving pair Pandelela Rinong and Cheong Jun Hoong had won a silver medal at the Rio Olympics.
Let’s pause for a moment and ponder what an achievement that is. Our country, which had previously only won Olympic medals in badminton and doesn’t have a particularly long diving history, has produced the world’s second best performance in the women’s synchronised platform event.
So this is a historic medal – the first silver outside of badminton and the first won by Malaysian women athletes. It is one better than the bronze won by Pandelela at the London 2012 Games, which was also a historic feat then.
As congratulations poured in for Pandelela and Cheong, none could have been more proud than their families, for whom all the sacrifice must have felt absolutely worth it the moment the silver was assured.
Indeed, Pandelela’s parents Pamg Joheng and Hartini Lamim could not stop smiling at their daughter’s achievement, even more so as they had not been expecting it.
Pamg got up at 1am to watch Pandelela and Cheong even though the event only got underway at 3am Malaysian time. Hartini did not go to bed at all.
“Before the live coverage started, I did not think she would win a medal. But for their first dive, she and Cheong received quite a high score and after the third dive, they were in third place.
“After the fourth dive, they went up into second position and when the final round was over, the second place was confirmed. It was so exciting watching them progress through the rounds, we were jumping up and pumping our fists,” he related when met at their home in Kota Samarahan.
Pamg also revealed that the family prayed before the event started. As Pandelela and Cheong stepped onto the platform for their final dive, they stood up and prayed together again.
“We are thankful to God for answering our prayers,” he beamed.
Hartini added: “We were surprised and very happy with Pandelela’s success, which we had hoped for. Although they finished second, it is an improvement from Pandelela’s previous performance in 2012.”
She said Pandelela’s success was due to her fighting spirit, which spurred her to do her best and never give up.
“We think of her as a warrior. Since young, she has been giving her full effort to what she loves. Well or unwell, she will keep going. Even when she faces difficulties, she never complained.
“She is highly motivated and always works hard and we are proud of her for that,” Hartini said.
Having watched their daughter on screen, Pamg and Hartini will fly to Brazil on Monday with their eldest son Pardika for Pandelela’s individual platform event next week.
“She asked us to come specially for her individual event. She will definitely be more pumped up when we are there and we are also looking forward to seeing her,” Hartini said.
How wonderful it is for Pamg and Hartini to be able to watch their daughter in action in Rio. No matter what the result may be – and goodness knows the nation’s expectations are sky high for another medal, even gold – she has already done them proud.
Sometimes, we can be quick to disparage our athletes’ performance on the international stage. We see Indonesia and Thailand above us in the medal table and that even Vietnam has won their first gold, and we wonder why we are still waiting for ours.
The temptation then, is to heap unreasonable expectations on our athletes, only to criticise them when they fail to live up to our expectations without really pausing to consider whether injuries or other factors might have affected their performance or how best we can support them.
To qualify for the Olympics is no mean feat and surely, the athletes themselves will want to give their all and improve on their personal best, if nothing else.
Of course, if one of them does manage to win a gold, pride, joy and congratulations will be in order.
But for now, let us celebrate Pandelela and Cheong’s achievement and wish our remaining athletes in Rio all the best.
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