Stories by ANGELIN YEOH
AS a child growing up in Kampung Jugan, Sarawak, Pandelela Rinong Pamg said she was very active and one of her favourite things to do was play at the river.
“I was always jumping around at the sungai. It was fun,” she said.
At that time, no one imagined that Pandelela would grow up to become a national diver and create Malaysian sporting history. At the London 2012 Olympics, Pandelela, 19, won a bronze medal in the women’s 10m platform diving event, making her the first Malaysian woman to win an Olympic medal, and the first Malaysian to win a medal in a sport other than badminton.
Relaxing at her hotel in Kuala Lumpur fresh off the plane from London, Pandelela was calm and admitted that she had felt homesick.
“When I was in London, I missed Malaysia terribly. Right now I’m glad to be back home, though I do feel a bit tired and exhausted,” she said.
With her success in London came a lot of rewards. She was awarded RM100,000 by The Star Media Group and RM150,000 under the Youth and Sports Ministry incentive scheme, most of which the Bidayuh lass plans to use for her studies.
“I’m thinking of furthering my studies, though I’m not too sure in what field yet. If I have to come up with an answer right now, I’ll probably say sports science.”
Pandelela also said she’s on a two-week break, and she’ll be jetting off to her hometown soon. Her family is currently with her and they have yet to tell her what their plans are for her when they get there. Nevertheless, she said she’s just very happy to be with her parents again.
“Which parents wouldn’t be proud of their child?” she said, in typically modest fashion. “They congratulated me. My father even said he’s very happy for me!”
After her break, it will be back to business as usual for Pandelela as she will start training again with coach Yang Zhuliang in Bukit Jalil, KL.
Her training is divided into two sessions every day, and she trains for about six hours. She also has to watch her diet, though she admits she will be indulging a little during her break, especially in some Baba Nyonya food.
She said: “I can’t resist my friend’s mother’s cooking. She makes the best Baba Nyonya food!”
For those who would like to take up diving as a sport, Pandelela says they must be prepared for some tough challenges. While she might make it look easy, the aquatic sport requires a lot of strength and flexibility.
“Discipline is very important. You need to be able to take advice and learn when you are criticised. You also need to be very courageous.”
R.AGE was also lucky enough to be the first to inform Pandelela that she had been invited by the British High Commissioner to have tea with the Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, during their visit to Malaysia in September. When we asked her about it, she said it was actually the first she was hearing of it!
“I want!” she squealed, like a true Malaysian. “Wow, I wouldn’t know what to say to them. I saw them in London during one of the medal presentation events for synchronized swimming. But it was from afar. This is going to be exciting!”
The “Pocket Rocketman”, who was seen as a dark horse in the men’s keirin event at London 2012, can now look forward to the birth of his first child with his wife Athiah Ilyana.
“She is due in early November. I’m looking forward to it as it’s a new experience and also a new challenge in our lives,” he said during an interview after he had arrived back in Kuala Lumpur.
As much as he’s excited about becoming a dad, Azizul’s mind was still very much on his performance back in London, which he thought could have been much better.
“Honestly, I was very disappointed. But that is over now and I will continue to do better.”
Azizul competed in two cycling events, finishing sixth overall in the men’s keirin and eight overall in the men’s sprint.
He said life in the Olympic village was great overall, but it made him miss Beijing, where the previous games in 2008 was held, and where Azizul had also competed.
“I prefer Beijing. I think it’s because we got a bigger space and Beijing is such an interesting city. There was plenty to see and they had a lot of activities planned for us.”
Azizul is based mostly in Melbourne, Australia where he trains with Australian coach John Beasley. He said this coming Hari Raya Aidilfitri will be special because it’d be his first time home in two years.
“I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time. I will be in Ipoh, Perak with my wife’s family and then maybe we’ll go to Terengganu where my hometown is.”
Azizul added that his family are ecstatic, and the young ones will probably be the most excited to see him.
“You know I bet the juniors are just waiting for my duit raya,” he said with a laugh.
After the Aidilfitri holidays, Azizul says he’ll be training in Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur. He added that his priority at the moment is to be with his wife, and he’ll only return to Melbourne in November – this time with his new family.
His training is divided into two sessions a day, lasting from 6:30am to 4pm. He said he trains for about three times a week and he focuses a lot on maintaining his fitness.
Now that Azizul is back in Kuala Lumpur again, he said he’s going to enjoy the food.
“Usually I have try to take less carbs and maintain a protein-based diet, but I’m going to give myself a break for the holidays,” he said, cracking up again.
He might be giving himself a break, but even now, Azizul already has an eye on his upcoming competitions.
“I’m going to keep up my performance and look forward to the next event. So watch out for me at the 2014 Asian Games (in Incheon, South Korea) and the 2014 Commonwealth Games (in Glasgow, Scotland).”