Absence of two close rivals rekindles Pandelela’s title hopes

In with a golden chance: Malaysia’s Pandelela Rinong’s arch-rivals Melissa Wu and Meaghan Benfeito are not taking part in the 10m platform event at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. — Reuters

PETALING JAYA: Diver Pandelela Rinong’s chances of regaining the women’s 10m individual platform title at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games have been given a boost with the absence of two long-time rivals.

Australia’s Melissa Wu is still grappling with a persistent back injury and will only focus on the 10m platform synchro event while Meaghan Benfeito quit earlier this year.

Melissa will still be the first Australian diver to compete in five Games with a clutch of medals under her belt, including two golds.

Melissa won the 10m platform individual event at the 2018 Gold Coast Games while Benfeito beat Pandelela to the gold in the 10m platform individual in Glasgow in 2014.

Both Melissa and Benfeito have been challenging Pandelela since she burst to prominence with a gold in the 2010 New Delhi Games.

Pandelela, then just 17, became Malaysia’s first ever diving gold medallist at the Games after finishing ahead of Melissa.

In 2018, Melissa tasted individual success with Benfeito settling for silver while Pandelela finished out of the medals in fourth spot in Gold Coast, Australia.

Pandelela, however, returned home with a gold when she partnered Cheong Jun Hoong to win the 10m platform synchro event ahead of Benfeito and Caeli McKay.

It was the first time Malaysia won a gold medal in the synchro discipline as Pandelela settled for silver (with Leong Mun Yee) in New Delhi and bronze (with Nur Dhabitah Sabri) in Glasgow.

With most countries entering younger divers, Pandelela will thus be the most experienced in the field for the 10m platform individual and this Games will be her fourth outing.

The motivation for the 29-year-old will be to continue her proud record of contributing at least one medal in her pet events.

“My goal is just to give my best. I am not getting any younger and I need to manage myself as I will be competing in a few events,” said the Sarawakian, who was also encouraged by her performance at the recent world championships in Budapest, Hungary.

At the world meet, Pandelela snatched two bronze medals in the 10m platform individual and synchro with partner Nur Dhabitah.

The outing in Budapest was the reason why the Olympic Council of Malaysia listed diving as one of six sports targeted to contribute gold at the Games.

Diving will be held from Aug 4-8 at Sandwell Aquatics Centre.

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