The Dynamic Duo

11 January 2017

We catch up with Malaysia’s female divers and Olympic silver medallists, Pandelela Rinong and Cheong Jun Hoong.

To say that being a world champion requires an extraordinary amount of hard work and sacrifice is an understatement. For Malaysia’s Pandelela Rinong and Cheong Jun Hoong, who won silver for the women’s synchronised 10m platform at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games last August, one of the biggest struggles they have to face – aside from a demanding training schedule and being away from family – is dealing with injuries.

“I sustained an injury that required me to go for surgery in 2008. After that, injuries started plaguing me. But you have to just do what you have to do,” says Jun Hoong, who had just recovered from an ankle injury right before competing in Rio.

Pandelela and Jun Hoong, aged 23 and 26 respectively, are at the height of their sporting careers. In 2012, Pandelela became the first female Malaysian athlete to win an Olympic medal when she won bronze in the women’s 10m platform in London, while Jun Hoong took home three bronze medals at the Asian Swimming Championship that same year.

Prior to Rio, the national divers were once regular partners in synchronised diving events, beginning with 2007’s Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Korat, Thailand. Both of them see their bond as a very important factor to their performance.

“Jun Hoong and I first partnered in 2007 but stopped afterwards because she suffered from an injury. However, our chemistry together was still there so it was easy for both of us to do a synchronised event again after more than six years,” explains Pandelela about reuniting with her old partner for Rio.

Jun Hoong concurs, adding that their mutual respect for each other allows them to work well together. The two frequently swapped tips and advice during training and competitions, which worked out well for them in the end: a silver Olympic medal each, a win that kickstarted the Malaysian contingent’s best performance at the Olympics with a total of four silver medals and a bronze.

“I cherish the moment when we stood on the podium,” says Jun Hoong on winning her first Olympic medal. “But right after that, I knew I had to move on and prepare for the next competition. What else is there to do, right?”

2017 looks to be a busy year of competitions for both Pandelela and Jun Hoong, whether competing in their individual events or as a pair. On the horizon is the FINA Diving World Series in March, followed by the World Championships in Budapest in July before they head home for the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games in August.

Even with “Olympic medallist” now on both their resumes, Jun Hoong and Pandelela won’t be resting on their laurels anytime soon – they’re both determined to train harder to give their very best performance in upcoming competitions.

“The journey to a successful career in diving is not easy and many have given up halfway. But as long you keep your passion alive and think positive, you will definitely achieve what others can’t,” says Pandelela.

By Zan Azlee
Pandelela Rinong images courtesy of Stories.my.

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