PETALING JAYA: Pandelela Rinong proved that she is indeed a Malaysian star diver in the making by finishing an impressive fifth in the women’s individual 10m platform final at the World Championships in Rome on Saturday.
The contest on the highest diving board saw a huge upset, with Mexican Paola Espinosa beating reigning Olympic champion Chen Ruolin of China to grab her first-ever gold medal at the world meet.
And 15-year-old Pandelela, the youngest among the 12 finalists, certainly held her nerves throughout the five-dive competition.
Pandelela was lying in 10th spot after the first two dives but improved three rungs after chalking up 73.95 points for the next dive.
She continued to defend her position and executed her last dive well enough to earn 76.50 to secure fifth place with a total of 354.45 points.
Pandelela, making her debut at the world meet, became the first-ever Malaysian woman diver to earn a place in a World Championships final after finishing 11th in the semi-finals earlier.
Sarawak-born Pandelela had finished ninth in the preliminaries to reach the top-18 semi-final stage.
Another Malaysian, debutant Traisy Vivian fumbled in her fourth dive in the preliminaries and was placed second last out of 31 competitors.
Pandelela has certainly made a big impression in her biggest competition after the Beijing Olympics last year and it puts her in good stead heading into the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games next year.
Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia secretary Edwin Chong said the fifth place finish was the best ever performance by a Malaysian diver at the senior level of the world meet.
“Bryan Nickson also made the 10m platform individual final at the last world meet in Melbourne in 2007 but he finished seventh,” said Edwin in a telephone interview from Rome.
“This time, Pandelela showed good composure in the final to finish behind a Canadian (Meaghan Benfeito), the two Chinese (Kang Li and Ruolin) and the Mexican (Espinosa).
“If she keeps on improving, she will not just be in a good position to take part at next year’s Asian Games and Commonwealth Games but also to contend for the medals.”
There were more cheers when the men’s synchronised 3m springboard duo of Yeoh Ken Nee and Rossharisham Roslan repeated their feat at the last world meet in Melbourne by reaching the top-12 final.
Ken Nee-Rossharisham, the silver medallists in the event at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, finished ninth in the preliminaries with 394.47 points. And in the final, the Malaysian pairing chalked up 388.77 points for 11th spot.