KUCHING: Indeed, Pandelela Rinong Pamg is an Olympian medallist — the first-ever female Malaysian one at that — yet she is also just like any other teenager of today.
“I love K-Pop. I’m also a big fan of Japanese anime,” Pandelela, 19, told The Star over the phone from London yesterday.
And when asked about her favourite anime show or character, she pondered for a while then answered: “I like so many, I can’t single out just one. That would be unfair to the other anime.”
An ardent K-Pop (short for Korean Pop), the Bidayuh girl said she had always enjoyed watching Super Junior — a boy band that at one point, comprised as many as 13 young, good-looking Korean men) and girl-power ensemble, Wonder Girls.
Right now, Pandelela is having a ball in London.
Sports, she added, had allowed her to travel all over the world and an opportunity to learn from the best.
“After the results came in, I was all emotional. I just couldn’t help it.
“I cried. I was happy that so many others were also happy. I spoke to my father almost immediately. He congratulated me and told me that all my aunties and uncles were at our home in Kuching watching,” she said.
After her bronze night, Pandelela said she then spent another “very, very emotional day”.
“I really felt a bit sad that my parents weren’t around. My mother was only here until the quarter-finals, and I didn’t get to speak to her immediately after. She had left for the airport.”
Her mother, Hartini Lamin, 44, was on a Dutch Lady Malaysia’s sponsored trip to London between Aug 5 and 9. Her mother was actually on a return flight when Pandelela was competing in the finals.
The family, from a village near Bau, about 40km from Kuching, is not from a wealthy background.
Pandelela’s father Pamg Joheng, 46, is a daily paid labourer. She told The Star that the family is trying to venture into the restaurant business.
“My dad is trying it out. If it works out well, then I think the family will move back to the village.”
On what she missed about Sarawak, Pandelela said she missed her favourite dish — her mother’s fried sambal petai with shrimps.
She also mentioned of one being given the opportunity to talk with national shuttler and Olympic silver medallist, Datuk Lee Chong Wei.
“He is an inspiration to me. I watched him live on television.
“If I get to meet him, I just want to tell him this: ‘Don’t cry for your losses because I’ll cry too. It’s alright if you didn’t play a perfect game; we all have done our best.”
“Lulu” to her friends, Pandelela said she planned to continue her studies alongside her diving career. Insisting that she was far from being as good as she aimed to be, she would consider training overseas — if better opportunities hadn’t presented itself to her — using funds from her own earnings.
Following her bronze medal clinch in the women’s 10m platform diving final at the London Olympics, Pandelela has been a hit online.
On Facebook, photos of her are plastered all over the social network, with countless “likes” and “shares”. On Twitter, a fake Pandelela account has even been set up.
Across the front page of local dailies yesterday, photos of Pandelela were accompanied with headlines like “Diving Darling”, “Sarawak’s Pride” and “Sarawak hearts Pandelela!”
Over the weekend, Inti College Sarawak Campus announced that it would offer a sports scholarship to Pandelela, while Welfare, Women and Family Development Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah said her achievement was proof of Sarawakians being just as capable as Peninsular Malaysians when it came to sports.
Fatimah also urged the Federal Government to consider building a full-fledged sports school in Kuching, similar to the well-equipped Bukit Jalil Sports School in Kuala Lumpur, to further im-prove sports development in the state.
Meanwhile, Kuching South City Council declared that entrance to its swimming pool at Jalan Padungan would be free of charge on Sept 1 to commemorate the Pandelela’s landmark Olympic medal.