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Pandelela Rinong: Gold medal and Gangnam Style?

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Pandelela Rinong has not won any gold medals at the Olympics and the FINA World Championships yet, still she is a national hero in Malaysia. The 24-year-old diver, who loves K-pop and Japanese animes, is a triple world bronze medallist, and her main goal is to win gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. However, she will be one of the secret favourites of the 17th FINA World as well.

Pandelela Rinong was picked by a swimming coach while she was on a visit to her primary school to look for potential swimmers to join her training programme. She was later given the chance to learn diving as she was not afraid of heights and was brave enough to jump from a three-metre board.

Her first major international success was winning the gold medal with her partner Cheong Jun Hoong in the 10m synchro event at the 2009 Southeast Asian Games. Two years later she repeated it with Leong Mun Yee, adding the gold medal of the 10m platform event to her tally.

She took part in the FINA World Championships in 2009 for the first time, and she claimed the bronze medal in the 10m synchro, winning Malaysia’s first ever medal at World Championships. At age 15, she became the youngest Malaysian female diver to qualify for a World Championship final, finishing fifth in the end in the 10m platform.

In New Delhi 2010, she won Malaysia's first Commonwealth Games gold medal in aquatics by winning the 10m platform event. She seemed unstoppable: she won three medals at the Asian Games and two more at the Youth Olympic Games.

She won another gold at the 2011 Southeast Asian Games, as well as one silver and one bronze at the Universiade.

She became Malaysia's first female flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics where she competed in the individual 10 m platform and the 10 m platform synchronised event with her partner Leong Mun Yee. She became the first Malaysian female athlete to win an Olympics medal by winning a bronze with Yee.

To commemorate her success, she was awarded the Johan Bintang Kenyalang (Companion of the Order of the Star of Hornbill) by the Sarawak State Government, in a special investiture ceremony, held at Astana shortly after her triumphant return to her homeland. She became Sarawak's first athlete to be accorded with the award.

She continued to achieve some more great results in the following years: she finished second at the 2013 FINA World Championships in the 10m synchro. In 2015, she made history when she became the first Malaysian to finish on the podium in an individual event at the World Championships. She clinched a bronze medal in the individual 10 m platform.

At the 2016 Olympics Rinong and Cheong Jun Hoong won silver, finishing second behind Chinese super stars Chen Ruolin and Liu Huixia. In honour of her achievement in Rio, the Sarawak Aquatic Centre in Petra Jaya was officially named Pandelela Rinong Aquatic Centre.

Her motto is not really extraordinary ("Never give up until the end."), but she is a very interesting young woman. She is an ardent fan of K-pop (a music genre, its most famous representative is Psy) and Japanese animes. Her main goal is to win a gold medal at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, but she may dance the Gangnam Style if she wins at the World Championships as well…

The final of the women’s 10m synchro event will be held on 16 July, the final of the women’s 10m platform event will be held on 19 July in the Duna Arena at the 17th FINA World Championships.

PANDELELA RINONG

Born: Kampung Jugan (Malaysia), 2 March, 1993

Medal record:

Olympic silver medallist (2016 Rio de Janeiro, 10m synchro); bronze medallist (2012 London, 10m platform)  

Triple world bronze medallist (2009 Rome, 10m synchro; 2013 Barcelona, 10m synchro; 2015 Kazan, 10m platform)

Commonwealth Games gold medallist (2010 New Delhi, 10m platform)

Six-time Southeast Asia Games gold medallist (2007 Nakhon Ratchasima, 10m synchro; 2009 Vientiane, 10m platform and synchro; 2011 Palembang, 10m platform; 2013 Naypyidaw, 10m platform; 2015 Singapore, 10m platform)