Behind the story of a Malaysian winning a Bronze medal in Diving category in London Olympics 2012
Personal note: When you say diving, the countries that pops to my mind are China, USA and Australia. But Pandelela Rinong Pamg changed my impression and indeed, it was a remarkable win for the first ever athlete that’s from South-East Asia that won a medal in the Olympics under Diving category. And her success started with her family…
That was the only mode of transportation he could afford for his two children, Pardika Indoma and Pandelela Rinong, who were aged eight and seven at that time.
“I had to bring them both on my bike. I know it is against the law, but I had to do what I had to do. I had to make sure that they went for their training,” said 48-year-old Pamg, when met at his home in Kota Samarahan.
As his family grew larger, Pamg, a contract worker, put aside some of the RM45 he earned every day. He used his savings to buy a rusty, old Mitsubishi Trident – the only four-wheeler he could afford.
“I felt shy every time I picked her up from the airport with my old Mitsubishi. But looking back, if it wasn’t for that old Mitsubishi, I could have never picked her up from the airport at all,” said Pamg,whose Mitsubishi was ‘retired’ after Pandelela bought her family a Proton Exora MPV last year.
“Life was tough back then. But I learned from my father that you have to plan two days ahead to be able to live today,” said Pamg.
But despite Pamg trying to do just that, not everything went his way. Though it was his dream to see both his children selected for the dive program, his eldest son did not make the cut.
“The coach told me only Pandelela had the right physique for the sport. I was heartbroken when I heard that. But I managed to talk to the coach and got Pardika in, just to accompany her. I believed she needed that support from her brother at that age,” said Pamg.
Pandelela was 7 when she was drafted into the state diving team in 2000, but her star truly began to shine only five years ago. Beginning with the Nakhon Ratchasima South East Asian (SEA) Games in 2007, Pandelela went on a medal winning run that included honours at the SEA Games, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, World Championship and Youth Olympics level before culminating in her recent bronze medal-winning outing at the London Olympics.
However, all that glory and all those victories have come with a heavy price.
Pandelela’s family hardly spends time with her and she has had to miss many family occasions, such as Gawai Dayak and Christmas.
“We hardly see each other. When she calls us, we utilise those precious moments very well. The only time she comes back to Kuching is when there is some official event. Even then she would return to Kuala Lumpur on the same day.
“I understand she has to go through a strict training regime; so we can’t be calling her all the time. As a father I am proud that she has gone this far in her career, but at the same time I am also sad that I can’t spend time with my daughter like I used to,” said Pamg.
Pamg said he has passed on his own father’s advice to Pandelela; telling her to always plan ahead, whether in life or in competition, like how his father have told him.
“I want her to keep moving forward. An Olympic bronze is nothing to boast about. She must go further. And I believe she will go further – just like she has done all this time,” said Pamg.
While Malaysia fetes, rewards and applauds Pandelela, Pamg wish is more simple.
“I don’t ask for much; I hope the sports council gives her some leave so she could come back to Kuching and spend time with us,” said Pamg.