Malaysia's Olympic medallist just a normal teen

Full of pride: (From left) Pandelela's sisters Parcelia Renyelia, 12, and Pici Parnia, 14, together with their parents browsing through newspapers featuring Pandelela on every cover.

KUCHING - She is an Olympic medallist and Malaysia's first woman to triumph at that level, but Pandelela Rinong Pamg was like any other teenager the day after.

"I love K-Pop and enjoy Super Junior and Wonder Girls. I'm a big fan of Japanese anime," the 19-year-old diving sensation said in a telephone interview from London yesterday.

Adding that she was having a ball at the London Olympics, Pandelela is just beginning to come to terms with her historic bronze medal feat in the 10m platform event on Friday.

"After the results came in, I was all emotional and cried. I spoke to my dad (over the telephone) almost immediately. He congratulated me and said all my aunties and uncles watched my feat on TV in Kuching," she said.

The Bidayuh lass, however, said she felt really sad that her parents were not by her side during the biggest moment of her life.

Hertini Lamin, 44, was on a sponsored trip to London from Aug 5 till Thursday, and was on her return journey when her daughter was competing in the final.

Pandelela said her family, who lives in a village near Bau about 40km from here, was trying to venture into the restaurant business.

Having been raised in near poverty, she spent her younger days following her dad Pamg Joheng, a daily paid labourer, from one construction site to another.

The flag bearer of the national contingent at the London Olympics opening ceremony has a burning desire: to speak to Malaysia's other London Olympic medallist, shuttler Datuk Lee Chong Wei, who broke down after failing narrowly to win the gold medal in the men singles final.

"Chong Wei is an inspiration to me. I watched that game live on TV. I want to tell him it's okay if we cannot be the best, but just that we should give it our all."

Fondly called LuLu by her friends, Pandelela said she planned to continue with her studies and stay focused on her diving.

"I plan to follow my coach Yang Zhuliang to Australia. He has told us that he wants to return to his home in Australia," said Pandelela, who had appealed to the National Sports Council to retain Yang's services.

Pandelela said Yang had told her that it would be possible for her to study and continue her training in Australia.

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