Pandela Rinong. At the onset of the London Olympics in summer 2012, little has been known and noted about this Sarawak-born diver, among the Malaysian majority. She did compete in 2008 Beijing Olympics but went home empty handed.
Pandelela’s name was tuned in as a competitor rather than a medal contender. Instead, other major big names such as badminton ace Lee Chong Wei, cyclist Azizulhasni Awang, shooter Nur Suriyani Taibi and even fellow diver Bryan Nickson Lomas were the more frequently mentioned as medal hopefuls.
But with a few days remaining, she surprised the nation by winning the bronze medal final at her 10m diving event. She added to the only other medal contributed from Lee Chong Wei’s silver. Pandelela became the first ever female Malaysian athlete to win a medal at the Olympics. Her bronze medal also makes diving as the only other sport that has delivered an Olympic medal other from badminton.
What can we learn from Pandelela’s success?
1. Being an underdog is no issue
Being a rather no-one is never an excuse to be big in your career. Odds are against us when we are pitted against the world’s best, especially in the sports dominated by other big nations such as China, Australia and the European countries. Diving has also never been the favorites for any Malaysian to be an immense success. But Pandelela proves that these are no barriers to create a history.
2. Born “out there” is not an excuse for success
Pandelela hails from a remote village in Jugan, Bau, Sarawak to Bidayuh ethnicity. No one would have predicted she would go this far in her life. But Pandelela always wanted to show something. At a tender age of seven, her diving potential was spotted and she was quickly selected to dive for her state. To continue sharpen her skills, she was sent to the Bukit Jalil Sports School in Kuala Lumpur.
3. Work hard
Pandelela works hard to sharpen her skills, strength, techniques and balances. According to her coach, she put up between six and eight hours of training daily. That’s hard work. Six months before the Olympics, she was made sure to develop the best physical conditioning in preparation for the massive games ahead. Other than the physical skills, Pandelela also learns hard how to control her mental and emotion. Diving live in front of audience and millions of TV viewers is no small matter.
4. Never give up
Pandelela is a testimony of never-give-up attitude. In the finals of the 10m diving, she started badly in her initial jumps, trailing in 10th place out of 12 competitors after two jumps. But she regained her mental strength and composure to complete her remaining dives with impressive marks. She eventually surprised everyone by capturing the bronze medal behind China’s Chen Ruolin and Australia’s Brittany Broben.
5. Build success, one thing at a time
Pandelela’s Olympics bronze medal is her most high-profile success, but she has been attaining other successes prior to this. She has in fact been showing fruitful results years before the London games. In 2009, she won third place in the women’s 10m synchronized platform with Mun Yee Leong and fifth in 10m single platform during the World Aquatics Championships. A year later in Delhi, she created history by winning Malaysia’s first aquatic gold medal in the Commonwealth Games.
Indeed, Pandelela Rinong has gone from a relatively small name into one of the major sporting successes in Malaysia.