Having risen to prominence during the 2012 Summer Olympics where she became the first Malaysian female athlete to win an Olympic medal, Pandelela Rinong has come leaps and bounds to be one of Malaysia’s top athletes. She has given Malaysians encouragement in what’s to come with the future crop of rising athletes to carry on the chase for the elusive first Olympic gold medal, and with Pandelela already having won the silver medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics at the age of 23 with fellow diver Cheong Jun Hoong, that dream may be realised sooner than later.
The Kuching-born Pandelela got her start at the age of eight, at a training programme, where her potential was discovered based on her fearlessness in jumping from a three-metre board and her flexibility. “I’ve always felt that the sport found me. From the moment I was selected in that training programme back in Sarawak, I was groomed to be who I am today.”
Making her debut in 2007 at the Asian Junior Aquatics Championships, the four gold medals won during that tournament were more than enough to establish herself as a rising talent. She then subsequently won another gold medal in the 10m synchronised platform at the 2007 Southeast Asian Games, catching the world eye.
When asked about the pressure she faces in meeting the expectations of not only the nation but also herself, she brushes it off as something that has gradually become part of her life. “I’ve been living with pressure for the most part of my life, it’s something that doesn’t affect me anymore.”
Above everything else, one quality should always persist in oneself to ensure success, according to Pandelela herself, that quality is resilience. “I’ve always encouraged young girls to get into diving. It seems intimidating but once you get the hang of it, the dive really does bring peace to the mind.”
With over a decade of experience, Pandelela has grown to be much wiser and mature, learning to handle criticisms through her path to success.
I’ve been living with pressure for the most part of my life, it’s something that doesn’t affect me anymore.Pandelela Rinong
The three-time Olympian, who also qualified for Tokyo 2020 Olympics, speaks in an interview with Olympic Channel saying: “The fame can bring you up, but also can bring you down. And as you get stronger, you tend to get loneliness because there are a lot of obstacles coming in. There are always people who are not happy when you achieve something. I am actually motivated by trying to prove them wrong and also wanting to prove that I can be better.”