Pandelela, we salute you

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  • Sunday, 12 Aug 2012

Keep up the great work and most importantly, keep your feet firmly on the ground as you strive for greater glory.

I WAS sleepy as I wrote this column on Friday evening.

This was all due to the heroic effort of Pandelela Rinong Pamg in securing an Olympic bronze in the women’s 10m platform diving final, which only finished close to 3am that day.

Pandelela really did Sarawak proud by bringing home the bronze — a mere seven points behind silver medallist Brittany Broben of Australia.

She displayed true grit, determination and a steely nerve.

Moreover, her bronze has earned her the place of becoming the first Sarawakian, the first female Malaysian and the first athlete outside badminton to have ever attained an Olympic medal.

Pandelela, we salute you.

In saying this, I’m also quite sure that by now there would be calls for rewards — monetary awards, scholarships, a house or perhaps a datukship — for the young girl.

Don’t get me wrong here.

Rewards are all well and good, but it must be given to motivate and encou- rage athletes who have performed well and made the country proud; not to spoil them.

Any reward, especially the monetary ones, must be for the long term. Such financial awards must be systematic and serve not just to reward successful sportsmen but also to groom new blood.

I believe the most fitting reward for Pandelela would be a scholarship to enable her to pursue her studies of choice.

In the US, the programmes there are built around sports scholarships.

I noted that as at Friday, the US have eased past China in terms of the number of gold medals won.

Perhaps we can take example from the US as being among the nations that have successful track record in the Olympics.

On the other hand, accolades must also go to Datuk Lee Chong Wei. Despite suffering from an injury that had hampered his training and preparation for the Games, he pushed China’s Lin Dan to the brink before losing the men’s badminton singles gold medal match 21-19 in a tight rubber game.

There is no shame in that defeat.

Chong Wei’s performance that night was really one of the best I have ever seen.

He matched Lin stroke for stroke and in almost every aspect of the game — perhaps Chong Wei couldn’t manage that final bit of mental strength.

To me, Chong Wei lost the game rather than Lin won it, in a repeat of the World Championships last year where he held two match points.

In the Olympic final, Chong Wei was leading 18-16 in the last set and that crucial moment came at 19-19 when he let by a clearing by Lin to the baseline and the shuttlecock landed in.

This was despite the fact that it was against the breeze.

It is not very smart not to play 50-50 shot at such a crucial point. To me, it also indicated that Chong Wei was hoping for Lin to lose that point rather than him attempting to win it.

In all the matches that I have had the pleasure to watch Chong Wei play, there would be at least two to three similar errors of judgement.

Still, the national shuttler is a true Malaysian hero and a great role model.

I especially liked his grace, dignity and stoicism in accepting defeat that night, unlike Lin who was more arrogant.

And take this from me; “fake” was it when Lin was profusely apologetic when he hit the net chord but at the very next point, he showed bad gamesmanship when he refused the request made by his opponent to change the shuttlecock, especially during the crucial point.

Maybe it was a winning mentality, but it was a disgraceful one.

Lin’s reaction after winning the play at match point was very disrespectful to his opponent and match officials.

Evidently, this behaviour is quite typical among the Chinese badminton players under their chief coach Li Yong Bo.

Lest anyone forget, the Chinese women’s doubles world champions had been deservedly thrown out of the game for deli-berately losing a match to avoid meeting their own teammates.

Three pairs from South Korea and Indonesia were also thrown out for emulating the Chinese antics that had violated the basic principles of the Olympics.

I do hope that action would be taken against the coaches. Li himself had admitted that he was responsible, so the sport’s world governing body must take strong disciplinary actions against him.

So our search for an Olympic champion continues. If only squash was recognised as an Olympic sport, our women’s world number one Datuk Nicol David would have a very, very good chance.

Speaking of which, I just cannot understand why squash is not accepted as an Olympic sport when BMX and mountain bike competitions are.

Even equestrian is considered an Olympic event. Do tell me who should get the medal — the horse or the jockey?

Or trampoline, which is just a variation of gymnastics; kayak in which orga- nisers have to build an artificial river for rowers to compete in; or beach volleyball where there is no beach? (And why are there only two players in a team?)

It takes lots of talent, discipline, determination and sheer will, plus a systematic sports development system to produce Olympic champions.

Obviously, financial support is also very important.

Here again, hosts Great Britain have the most successful Olympic outing in more than 100 years, having collected more than 25 gold medals and are just behind China and the US.

The success of the British contingent could be traced back to the decision of their government to start the national Lotto lottery in 1994, from which the proceeds would be used to fund their Olympic campaign.

Here in Malaysia, whenever somebody wins something big in sports, we pamper them until they lose their focus and discipline — except for a few like Chong Wei and Nicol.

So Pandelela, keep up the great work and most importantly, keep your feet firmly on the ground as you strive for greater glory.

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