I AM sure that by now, almost everybody knows who Pandelela Rinong Pamg is and how she has made Malaysia proud.
For most of those who had watched her Olympic bronze-winning feat at the Aquatics Centre in London last week, her effort was nothing short of inspiring.
Yes, I’m insisting that Pandelela did win her bronze — not secure, bag, snatch, clinch, grab, take, bring home or any other verbs that would normally be associated with medals other than gold.
Not only that, I strongly oppose those who downplay her achievement.
Yes, there are an unfortunate few who do that, and they are those with mulut jaik. In Sarawakian Malays the phrase simply means “bad mouth”.
So these people with mulut jaik were the very same group who were bickering over Datuk Lee Chong Wei’s loss to China’s Lin Dan in the Olympic badminton men’s singles final last week.
They claimed that the only thing on the national shuttler’s mind during the finals was the RM2mil worth of gold bar and other lifetime rewards, which had diverted his focus and resulted in his defeat.
Now, these same people are finding fault in Pandelela. Most recently, I heard criticisms saying that the 19-year-old Bidayuh had gone “diva-esque” all because she had asked the National Sports Council (MSN) to retain diving coach Yang Zhuliang, who is a China national.
This group of critics even went to the extreme of accusing Pandelela of threatening MSN when she said she “might consider leaving the country to follow him (Yang)”.
To these critics, please read up.
To date, Pandelela has won more than 70 medals in various championships, with about 20 of them in international meets.
But in gaining these achievements, the girl and her family had to go through some tough times.
I’m sure by now most of you have read stories of her and her parents in the newspapers, so I will not elaborate much further.
It’s quite sufficient, I think, to say that Mr Pamg Joheng has given his all just to see Pandelela and her brother Pardika Indoma — also a national diver — excel in whatever field they are taking.
For the girl herself, she has struggled a lot just so that she could continue doing what she loves the most — diving.
Never mind that for the past six or seven years, she was fully occupied between school and training — sometimes having to eat and drink in a car driven by her father, as she divided her time between the two.
Never mind that she was overlooked by many in terms of her achievements prior to the London Olympics.
It also did not matter that she was not promised any reward or incentives if she could bring back home a medal for the country.
What was important was that she did things her way, and delivered.
I am sure that many have read about how her coach scolded her terribly for not performing well in the women’s 10m platform synchronised event, in which she partnered Leong Mun Yee.
Throughout her training, Pamg even related how Pandelela was punished, which included being hit with slippers, by her coach for committing mistakes.
Which makes me wonder, why would she want to retain her coach if she had to undergo such treatment?
Isn’t it obvious?
Pandelela herself said that her coach had been highly instrumental in shaping her to become the athlete that she is today.
“I feel confident when I train with Yang, compared to other coaches. I really feel that he has given us a lot. I trust him. He’s coached us for three years since 2009,” she told The Star recently.
I would think that Pandelela’s request is a very justifiable one.
After all, she did give us the best gift one could ever have — the gift of unity and togetherness.
It has been told, and I’m re-telling it now, how she had united all Malaysians through her performance at the Olympics.
And the timing of it all was so — for a lack of a better word — “timely”.
Pandelela’s bronze is really a nice surprise for Hari Raya and Merdeka.
And talk about nice surprise, I’m all eager about Kuching South City Council’s (MBKS) announcement that it will open its swimming pool to the public for free this Sept 1 to commemorate Pandelela’s feat at the London Olympics.
I’ll surely be dropping by then, and I hope to meet the sweet receptionist lady whom I wrote about in this column published on June 25.
By the way, in celebrating Hari Raya this weekend, I wish all you Muslims a happy Aidilfitri with your family and loved ones.
I’ll be taking a break from this column next week, but I’m looking forward to seeing you all again the week after.