Div­ing dar­ling

Malaysia’s most suc­cess­ful fe­male Olympian gets a makeover.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By MICHAEL CHEANG star2@ thes­tar. com. my

IF you meet Pan­delela Ri­nong out­side of the div­ing arena, you would not have guessed that she is Malaysia’s most suc­cess­ful fe­male Olympian.

At the Lon­don Olympic Games in 2012, she dived her way to the 10m plat­form bronze medal, the first ever Malaysian fe­male Olympic medal­list and the first ever Malaysian medal out­side of bad­minton. She went one bet­ter in the re­cent Rio 2016 games with a sil­ver medal with Cheong Jun Hoong in the 10m plat­form syn­chro­nised event.

How­ever, be­hind the glit­ter of all her medals, she is still a very nor­mal, bub­bly 23- year- old girl from the lit­tle Bi­dayuh vil­lage of Kupuo Ju­gan in Sarawak, who loves K- Pop, hor­ror films, and likes noth­ing more than a good nap and a nice hot bowl of chili pan mee.

While her ath­letic ex­ploits are well known across the na­tion, lit­tle is ac­tu­ally known about what Pan­delela is like in per­son. The “Per­sonal Life” sec­tion on her Wikipedia page, for in­stance, only states that she is a fan of K- Pop and anime.

So, when Star2 was given the op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­view her and show another side of Pan­delela, we de­cided it would be fun to dress her up for a photo shoot.

This be­ing her first real “glam­orous” fashon shoot, she was no­tice­ably shy at first, but with a lit­tle bit of coach­ing from de­signer Andy Bandy, and some tunes from K- Pop group Big Bang play­ing in the back­ground, we wit­nessed the shy but gig­gly girl we so of­ten see on TV slowly grow into a con­fi­dent young wo­man who could al­most pass for an ac­tual model.

Ev­ery now and then, though, that in­fec­tious gig­gle would still ring out, re­mind­ing us that be­neath all the makeup and fab­u­lous out­fits is a very nor­mal ( and very gig­gly) 23- year- old.

So it was that when we fi­nally sat down for an in­ter­view, ex­hausted af­ter the al­most three- hour long shoot, we de­cided that the fo­cus should not be on her sport­ing ex­ploits, but what she is

My friends al­ways say I have no time for boyfriends, and that I don’t even have time to take care of my­self! Pan­delela Ri­nong

like out­side of the sport­ing arena.

We started off with a few short, rapid- fire ques­tions just to warm her up ( and pad up that Wikipedia page), be­fore go­ing into some of the deeper, more per­sonal ques­tions.

Who are your favourite mu­si­cians?


Favourite song?

Bang Bang Bang!

Favourite Big­bang mem­ber?

T. O. P.

If you could meet T. O. P, what would you say to him?

Can you sing me a song?

Favourite movie?

I love hor­ror movies, like The Con­jur­ing.

If you were a char­ac­ter in a hor­ror movie, which one would you be?

The one that sur­vives at the very end!

Favourite TV show?


Dean or Sam?


Favourite book?

Hor­ror sto­ries, like Dark High­ways by Me­gat Ishak.

Favourite food?

Chili pan mee! There’s one ( pan mee shop) in Sri Pe­tal­ing that I al­ways go to eat.

Do you play Poke­mon Go?

I used to, in Rio. But I stopped when I came back be­cause it drains the phone bat­tery too quickly.

First Poke­mon?

A Bul­basaur!

What’s your favourite child­hood mem­ory?

Go­ing to the wa­ter­fall with my fam­ily. The last time I did was when I was 13, I think, be­fore I moved to Bukit Jalil for train­ing.

What do you fear the most?

Leeches! I got sucked by a leech once when I was 10 years old, and I’ve had a pho­bia ever since.

What do you love do­ing the most when you are not train­ing, study­ing or com­pet­ing?


If you had one day to do any­thing you want, what would you do?


Most mem­o­rable thing in Rio not re­lated to div­ing?

Meet­ing su­per­stars like No­vak Djokovic. And Si­mone Biles, who is shorter than me! I didn’t ex­pect that! ( gig­gles)

What ques­tion do you wish peo­ple would stop ask­ing you?

“When is your next com­pe­ti­tion?” Some­times when I have just fin­ished my dive, I just want to cel­e­brate the mo­ment and don’t want to think about my next com­pe­ti­tion!

Is there any­thing you miss from be­fore you started div­ing?

Al­most ev­ery­thing. I used to be able to go wher­ever I want, when­ever I like, and eat any­thing I want. I am a food lover, and I like to eat what­ever I want, even though my nu­tri­tion­ist tells me not to! But of course if it’s close to a com­pe­ti­tion then I wouldn’t do that. I also miss my week­ends. My com­pe­ti­tions are al­ways on week­ends, so some­times I miss hav­ing week­ends to do what­ever I want.

When you started div­ing, did you ever imag­ine you would be win­ning an Olympics medal?

It has al­ways been my goal. When I first started div­ing, my coach gave me a news clip­ping of ( Chi­nese diver) Guo Jingjing, and she said, “I want you to be at the Olympics, and stand­ing on the podium”.

Be­ing such a pub­lic figur re now, is there any­thing you wish h peo­ple knew more about you?

I wish they would un­derst tand that I am a low pro­file per­son. I I’m not com­fort­able with peo­ple l look­ing at me all the time. Some­time es I just want to be nor­mal. I just w want to walk around and have funn with my friends with­out peo­ple e star­ing at me all the time.

You re­cently hit 100,000 fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram, and have over 117,000 likes on your offi fi­cial Face­book page ( www.fac­ce­book.com/pan­dele­lar­i­non­gof­fi­cial) ). Are you re­ally that ac­tive on soci ial me­dia?

I try to post at least one ph hoto on In­sta­gram every­day. It can n be any­thing, a selfie, or some ething I like about K- pop. But I have too be more cau­tious about what I post. Pe eo­ple are al­ways ques­tion­ing what I post, and ask why am I do­ing this, and thatt ... but most of the time I ig­nore i it and take it as a joke.

And now for the most im mpor­tant ques­tion of all. Do you h have a boyfriend cur­rently?

No. My friends al­ways say y I have no time for boyfriends, and th hat I don’t even have time to take car re of my­self!

Then what would your id deal boyfriend ma­te­rial be like? stand

Some­one who can un­ders my sched­ule. Some­one like T. O. P.! He is goofy, funny, good- look­ing g, and at the same time, he is a good ra ap­per. And he is very cool.

Pho­tog­ra­pher: YAP CHEE HONG/ The Star

Clothes: ANDY BANDY (@ andy­bandy­of­fi­cial on In­sta­gram) Hair + makeup: ANITA TANG of A Cut Above e

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