Pandelela Rinong had a successful outing at the recently concluded SEA Games 2017 clinching the gold for the women’s 10m diving and another one together with Gabriel Gilbert at the newly introduced mixed team event. No stranger to the diving scene, she made her international debut at the tender age of 14, and since then has won multiple gold medals in various sporting events. We speak to her about all things diving and outside of it!
Name us one thing about your hometown (Kampung Jugan) that people should know.
It is situated in Bau town which was known for being a gold mine in the olden days. Now the mine has been turned into a big blue lake called Tasik Biru.
You’ve mentioned that you dislike training. Why and how do you keep doing it?
I dislike training because it can be boring and mentally exhausting when I keep repeating the same routine over and over again. But it is crucial in improving my technique and reaching that near perfect precision. Training with teammates also help in getting into the right mood and enjoyable.
What is it like standing on the platform, preparing to dive? It seems very nerve-racking.
Indeed pretty scary for beginner, but after years of practices and competing, I feel like it’s a normal thing to do as a diver. The more you dive, the more confident you will become.
Physical strength is a given – how do you build yourself up emotionally and mentally to continue training, live a public life, and shoulder such a huge responsibility representing our country?
I think I separate my individuality and performance as an athlete. That being said, I enjoy being myself and do not get caught up too much with the publicity I get and the life of an athlete all the time. This is very helpful and necessary to keep my life balanced physically and mentally. It’s like having a dual personality to be on track for a longer period of time.
How do you deal with online trolls, haters, and keyboard warriors?
I treat them like fans who need attention but use a bad approach to reach their intention. The best thing to do is to ignore them and don’t go down to their level. Or I pretend like I care so that both sides are happy.
What has been your biggest sacrifice so far?
It would be my physical health to meet the expectation of this sport of diving. Sometimes I will just shut down the signal from my body screaming in pain with painkillers to finish my training or competition before I allow it to rest and recover.
What’s on your K-pop playlist right now?
Big Bang and the members’ solo songs.
The Pandelela Rinong Aquatic Centre was named after you (obviously!). Does it ever feel surreal that you’ve become this icon and role model in our country?
Of course it was surreal, pretty overwhelming in fact. But I am very much grateful as my years of hard work and achievements are being recognised and acknowledged by many.
Tell us one thing that people don’t already know about you, outside of diving and your love for K-pop!
The real me is a wanderlust.
Need some #fitspo? Check out our interview with former SEA Games athlete Kimbeley Yap here!