Down to earth

PETALING JAYA: Reigning World Cup champion Pandelela Rinong needs to stay grounded in her bid to make Olympics history for Malaysia in July.

On Wednesday, she became Malaysia’s first champion in Diving Wthe series after winning the women’s 10m platform individual final at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

It is not an easy feat by any means despite the absence of divers from China and Australia.

The 28-year-old was a picture of consistency and mental fortitude when she ended Malaysia’s wait for a medal after five days of competition.

With the final starting barely an hour after the semi-finals ended, Pandelela proved to be the strongest of the 12 competitors as she never relinquished her lead from the second dive onwards.

The Sarawak-born diver needs nothing less than a consistent performance in Tokyo if she is to be in the mix for a medal and she is taking heart from her campaign this week.

“I feel very happy that I was more consistent in the final, ” said Pandelela.

“In the preliminaries, I made three errors in my dive and in the semi-final, I made two mistakes, so it feels great that I was consistent in the final.

“I want to be on the podium at the Olympics of course but I also want to do my personal best in both the synchronised and individual event, ” said Pandelela, who will also partner Leong Mun Yee for the 10m platform synchro event.

Pandelela also had kind words to say about the venue for the Olympics aquatics competition.

“This venue is very big but I like the indoor pools. It’s comfortable and you can adjust the temperature. I wish Malaysia could have an indoor pool one day, ” she said.

“The pools back in Malaysia only have a roof so every time when it rains, it severely affects our training, ” added Pandelela, who will return home to undergo a two-week quarantine.

By winning a gold in Tokyo, Pandelela has a complete set of World Cup medals to show in her illustrious career. She won a bronze in 2018 in Wuhan and bagged a silver with Cheong Jun Hoong in the women’s 10m platform synchro in the 2016 edition in Rio de Janeiro.

But it is at the Olympics where she has the chance to become only the second Malaysian athlete after shuttler Lee Chong Wei to win a medal in three successive Olympics.

Chong Wei claimed three silver medals from Beijing (2008), London (2012) and Rio de Janeiro (2016).

Pandelela already has a bronze to show from London and silver in Rio de Janeiro when she partnered Cheong Jun Hoong for the women’s 10m platform synchro event.

She does not need reminding that the challenge at her fourth Olympic campaign will be much tougher as the Chinese and Australian divers will be there.

China were only represented in the women’s springboard event having already earned the maximum 12 slots through the world championships in Gwangju, South Korea earlier while Australia pulled out citing health safety concerns due to surge in Covid-19 cases.

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