Diver Pandelela steals the show in her first international competition

PETALING JAYA: Young diver Pandelela Rinong made a perfect international debut by bagging gold for Malaysia in the Asian Junior Aquatics Championships in Jakarta yesterday. 

Golden girls: Pandelela Rinong and Cheong Jun Hoong (below, right) won the goldmedal in the synchronised 3m springboard event at the Asian Junior AquaticsChampionships.

The 14-year-old Sarawakian partnered 17-year-old Cheong Jun Hoong to win the girls' synchronised 3m springboard event with a total of 268.38. 

Beijing Olympics-bound Bryan Nickson also shone in his new partnership with Mohd Fakhrul, bagging a silver in the boys' synchronised 3m springboard event.  

The duo chalked up 275.46 to finish behind a Chinese pair, who posted 304.65. 

China did not have an entry in the girls' event and Pandelela certainly stole the show on the opening day of the championships. 

Like Doha Asian Games bronze medallist Elizabeth Jimie, Pandelela comes from the Tabuan Jaya Secondary School in Sarawak and she took up the sport six years ago. 

Pandelela and Elizabeth were the top performers for Sarawak in the girls' diving competition of the 2006 Sukma (Malaysia Games) in Alor Star. Pandelela won three gold medals and Elizabeth went one better. 

However, Pandelela was not considered for the World Junior Championships in Kuala Lumpur last year because she was only 13. The minimum age of eligibility for international diving competitions is 14.  

The Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia (Asum) secretary, Edwin Chong said in a telephone interview from Jakarta yesterday that it was a good start for the team. 

“This is Pandelela's first international competition and she did well to win her event. We felt that she had a good chance to win the gold after having undergone training in Kunming for the last one month,” he said. 

Pandelela has a chance to bag a second gold medal when she takes part in the girls' individual 10m platform event today. 

Malaysia are only represented by their divers in the championships. 

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