Reports by LIM TEIK HUAT and KNG ZHENG GUAN
SEPANG: National diver Pandelela Rinong, who made the country proud with her Olympic bronze medal achievement in London last week, returned home to a heart-warming reception by her schoolmates and her parents whom she has not seen for the last few months.
The 19-year-old’s face lighted up as she was greeted by her proud father Pamg Joheng and mum Hartini Lamim after stepping out from the plane.
Her parents were specially flown in from Kuching by national carrier Malaysia Airlines (MAS) who also upgraded Pandelela to the business class seating on the flight home to honour her distinction of becoming the first woman Olympic medal winner for Malaysia with her bronze medal dive in 10m platform.
An estimated 100 sports fans and students from the Bukit Jalil Sports School together with Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Shabery Cheek gathered early in the morning to welcome home the nation’s newest Olympic heroine.
And despite elevating her sport to the highest level, Pandelela is adamant that she will stay modest.
“I want to thank all those involved in the efforts towards making this possible, including my family who have supported me all the way in my career.
“My most cherished experience competing in my second Olympics was to be able to give a fight to the world’s best divers out there.
“I want to stay the same despite this success as I feel more comfortable being humble. I intend to keep training hard to get ready for the next Olympics in Rio and also the World Championships in Spain next year,” said Pandelela, who returned home along together with the aquatics team.
The divers have been given a one-week break and Pandelela hopes to catch up on lost time with her parents.
“I have not stayed in my parents’ home since the year started. I returned once but it was for the state sports awards that time. I will not think of diving for the moment,” said Pandelela.
But it would be difficult for her to keep a low profile. The spotlight will be on her in the coming days when she returns to a grand reception by her state government tomorrow night while Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is scheduled to meet her on Friday.