ENCOURAGEMENT from her brother and other family members inspired young Pandelela Rinong to play her part with Cheong Jun Hoong in retaining the womens 10m platform synchronised diving title for Malaysia at the Aquatics Centre in the Korat Sports Complex yesterday.
And in doing so, the 14-year-old Sarawakian became the youngest Malaysian gold medallist in SEA Games diving. Farah Begum Abdullah was 15 when she won the first-ever gold for Malaysia in the sport at the 1999 Brunei Games.
But Pandelela, who is also the youngest diver in the Korat Games, had no inkling of whether she could pull it off in her six-month-old partnership with Jun Hoong for the 10m platform synchronised competition.
Pandelela-Jun Hoong led from start to finish for a five-round total of 293.79. Indonesias Shenny Amelia-Herlyani Sukmahati took the silver on 270.12 and Thailands Tommaoros Sukrutai-Putsadee Dangjai clinched the bronze on 208.17.
Pandelela was making her maiden Games appearance and it was only her second international competition after the Asian Junior Age-Group Championships in Jakarta in July where she bagged four gold medals.
I was a bit nervous as the competition got nearer because it was my first major senior competition, said Pandelela, who was drafted into the national team in June.
We learned some new routines and my coach (Li Lijie) wanted us to apply them here.
I also always kept in touch with my family and they helped me a lot. My elder brother (Pardika Indoma) is also a diver for Sarawak and he encouraged me to just take it easy and not think too much.
The Kuching lass first served notice of her potential when she bagged three gold and two silver medals in Sukma (Malaysia Games) in Alor Star last year.
The 17-year-old Jun Hoong expressed satisfaction over her performance with a new partner.
She partnered Leong Mun Yee to win the gold in the same event at the last Games in Manila two years ago. But Mun Yee is concentrating only on the springboard events this time.
There was a little pressure because we beat the Indonesians to the gold in the Asian age-group meet. But the coach was confident we could do it after training in China for almost two months. We hope to further improve on our techniques, said Jun Hoong, who is making her third appearance in the biennial Games.
Pandelela and Jun Hoong will bid to add to Malaysia's medal count when they take part in the 10m platform individual event today.