Queen of national unity


Pandelela (second from right) with her family in Kuching

COMING from a diverse background and being at ease mingling with anyone that she meets, it is no wonder that diving queen Datuk Pandelela Rinong Pamg has been chosen as the national unity icon.

The Olympic silver and bronze medalist knows just too well about the subject as she has travelled far and wide for her tournaments and training.

The 30-year-old Bidayuh, who hails from Kuching, Sarawak, appreciates the diversity among her teammates, who are from different states and ethnicities.

“We all come from different backgrounds and places, even coaches. But we share the same goals, therefore we always work as a team.

“Besides that, we also sacrifice many similar things to be good in what we do, we spend more time with each other than with our families during training and competition,” said Pandelela.

“For example, I only get to go back to my hometown twice a year – during Christmas until New Year and Hari Raya.

“My teammates and I try our best to achieve the same goals and respect each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We also always encourage each other to achieve the best result for the team.”

Pandelela is exemplary not just to all her teammates but every aspiring athlete.

She was named a national unity icon in June, thanks to her groundbreaking success in diving and her diverse background.

She speaks fluent Mandarin after attending a Chinese school, SRJK (C) Stampin. She can also converse in Bidayuh, Bahasa Malaysia and English.

Pandelela is the only female athlete from Malaysia to win two medals at the Olympic Games.

She captured a bronze medal in the 2012 Olympics in London for the 10m individual platform event, followed by a silver medal in the 2016 edition in Rio de Janeiro for the 10m synchronised event with Cheong Jun Hoong.Malaysians’ interest in diving increased a lot thanks to Pandelela’s achievements, as previously, only badminton had contributed medals for the country in the Olympics.

“People started seeing diving as a sport that can contribute medals after I won the bronze in London,” she said, adding that previously a fair number of people in the country did not know what diving was.

“Some asked if diving was scuba diving while others referred to me as a swimmer.

“Winning medals and getting recognition and acknowledgement overseas, make people know that Malaysians also can do well in this sport. Now people understand diving better.”

On being the national unity icon, Pandelela said: “I feel grateful and proud to be appointed.

“This is a recognition by the government to honour my achievement and acknowledge my experience throughout my career as a sportsperson representing Malaysia for the past 16 years.”

Pandelela’s success has not come easy for her.

She recalled how she wanted to call it quits a few times but with her family’s constant support, she had changed her mind.

She is the second of four siblings. She has an older brother, Pardika Indoma and two younger sisters, Pici Parnia and Parcelia Renyelia.

Her father, Pamg Joheng is a contractor while her mother Hartini Lamim is a housewife.

Pandelela’s biggest challenge throughout her career is coping with injuries.

“I’ve always been a bit injury prone. I train harder when major competitions are near and if I don’t balance rest and recovery with my training, I can get injured.

Pandelela (squatting, centre) with her teammates and coaching staffPandelela (squatting, centre) with her teammates and coaching staff

“Diving is a physically challenging sport, especially for women, and it’s not easy to come back from injuries.”

Pandelela’s next big assignment is the Asian Games from Sept 23 to Oct 8 in Hangzhou, China. She also aims to qualify for her fifth Olympics in Paris next year.

She believes sports play a big role in uniting the multiracial people of Malaysia.

“Sports do not discriminate. Playing sports encourages us to go out of our comfort zone and work with all races.

“When travelling overseas for competition, we get to open our minds to new things and learn about others,” she said, adding that sports also brought a sense of hope and patriotism.

Pandelela really appreciates the support and encouragement that she gets from fans.

“I receive encouraging words and prayers through social media from fans.

“There was once when I was in a restaurant, a lady came and told me not to give up, saying she was looking forward to watching me on television

“This motivates me and keeps me going, to contribute as much as I can to meet the expectations of those who root for me,” said Pandelela.

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