PETALING JAYA: It’s now Datuk Pandelela Rinong (pic).
The title awarded by the Sarawak state government yesterday was a fitting recognition for national diver Pandelela on the same day as Malaysia celebrated their National Sports Day.
The two-time Olympics medallist, the pride and joy of the Bidayuh community, was conferred the Panglima Setia Bintang Sarawak (PSBS), which carries the title ‘Datuk’ in conjunction with the 85th birthday of the Sarawak Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud.
She now joins several other well-known athletes to be made a Datuk.
Three months ago, track cyclist Azizulhasni Awang was conferred a Datukship by the Terengganu state government just before he departed for the Tokyo Olympics. Azizul went on to win silver in the keirin event, adding to the bronze he won in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Pandelela and Azizul join squash queen Nicol David and shuttler Lee Chong Wei as the only four Malaysian athletes to be given a Datukship while active in their respective sports.
Proud with the recognition for Pandelela, Malaysia Swimming secretary Mae Chen hopes to see their top diver continue to raise the Malaysian flag high in international competitions.
“Big congratulations to her. It is an honour for Malaysian aquatics to see one of our athletes honoured in this way,” said Mae.
“She has scored a lot of firsts for Malaysia diving all these years and she deserves this.
“Pandelela did not have a memorable Olympics in Tokyo but I believe she is going to come back stronger after this because she is a fighter.
“She has returned to training in Bukit Jalil and is now going through the basic training skills again.
“Her goals for next year are to do well in the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and Hangzhou Asian Games as these are the two major events that we hope to contribute medals,” she added.
Pandelela is the most successful Malaysian diver when it comes to the Commonwealth Games as she has won two gold medals in the 10m platform individual (2010 New Delhi) and in the 10m platform synchro with Cheong Jun Hoong (2018 Gold Coast).
Pandelela failed to win a third straight Olympics medal in Tokyo after finishing eighth in the 10m platform synchro with Leong Mun Yee. She finished 12th in the 10m platform individual final.
Pandelela already has a bronze and silver from previous Olympics outings in London (2012) and Rio (2016).