National diver Pandelela Rinong splashed her way to the gold medal in the women’s 10m platform at the FINA Diving World Cup yesterday – the first-ever gold medal won by the country at the event.
The 28-year-old Sarawakian amassed 355.70 points to win the final at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre in Japan.
It was not only Malaysia’s first gold at the meet, but also the country’s only medal in this year’s five-day tournament, which ends today.
“It’s truly a miracle tonight. Praise God,” she tweeted later.
In the absence of the highly-touted Chinese, Matsuri Arai of Japan won the silver after garnering 342.00 points while Canada’s Caeli Mckay took home the bronze medal with 338.55 points.
Pandelela bettered her record in the final after being ranked third in the semi-finals with 333.00 points, behind Caeli with 343.85 points and Andrea Spendolini Siriex in second place with 336.30 points.
Pandelela’s stunning victory caught the attention of youth and sports minister Reezal Merican Naina Merican, who was quick to congratulate her via Twitter and Facebook.
“Defied the odds and now she stands at the top of the podium! Tahniah @Pandelela_R !! Kejayaan ini terus menyemarakkan semangat kita semua sebelum acara yang terbesar tahun ini. So so proud of you Pandelela #DemiMalaysia #KontinjenMalaysia,” he said.
Former world champion Cheong Jun Hoong, meanwhile, went from the high of qualifying for the Olympics day earlier to finishing last in the semi-final with 237.35 points. A day earlier, she had topped the chart of the preliminary round after collecting 345.30 points.
However, Jun Hoong still has a reason to smile as she has accomplished her main mission of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics, something that had seemed impossible a year ago when she was training alone in China.
Earlier, national diver Chew Yiwei faltered in his attempt to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics after enduring a nightmare in the men’s individual 3m springboard.
Yiwei’s poor dive caused him to finish the round in the 43rd place out of 54 divers with just 315.10 points.
Another diver, Muhammad Syafiq Puteh, performed slightly better than Yiwei by taking 23rd place with 367.35 points, but that was not enough for the 25-year-old to make the cut for the semi-finals today.
Pandelela, Leong Mun Yee, Wendy Ng Yan Yee, and Nur Dhabitah Sabri have all qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to be held from July 23 to Aug 8.