It’s great to be competing again, says diving queen Pandelela

Pandelela Rinong Pamg is aiming for a hattrick of Olympic medals, but for now, she is just happy to be competing in an international tournament.

The last international meet the national divers took part in was the July 2019 World Championships in South Korea.

Pandelela and nine other Malaysian divers – Cheong Jun Hoong, Leong Mun Yee, Wendy Ng, Nur Dhabitah Sabri, Chew Yiwei, Ooi Tze Liang, Syafiq Puteh, Jellson Jabillin and Hanis Nazirul Jaya Surya – are in Tokyo for the Diving World Cup (May 1-6).

It is the final qualifying tournament for the Tokyo Olympics scheduled from July 23-Aug 8.

The top-18 divers in the individual and the top four in synchronised disciplines qualify for the Olympics.

“It is a good warm-up, and I can’t wait to get the competition feeling back,” said Pandelela, who won a bronze in the 10m platform at the 2012 London Olympics and silver with Cheong in the 10m synchronised platform four years later in Rio de Janeiro.

“I want to compare myself with the other (international) divers and see what areas I need to improve on before the Olympics.

“I’m just happy to be competing once again after more than a year due to Covid-19. It would not be boring, unlike just training back home.”

All the divers are in a ‘sports bubble’ in Tokyo. The city itself is under a state of emergency due to a rise in Covid-19 cases.

Tokyo reported 828 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, the most in the capital since Jan 26 when there were 1,026 cases.

Japan has recorded over 570,000 Covid-19 infections since February 2020.

“We are being quarantined in the hotel room. We only get takeaway food and can only eat in the room. No outing except to the diving venue,” said Pandelela, who has already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in the 10m platform individual and synchronised events.

The other Malaysian divers who have qualified for the Olympics are Nur Dhabitah and Ng (3m individual springboard) and Leong (10m synchronised platform).

Nur Dhabitah and Ng hope to qualify for the 3m synchronised springboard event.

On the comeback trail from injury, former world champion Cheong competes in her first international tournament since 2018. She won gold in the 10m platform at the 2017 World Championships.

The good news for Malaysia is that diving powerhouse China is only sending its backup divers to Tokyo as it has already filled its quota of 12 qualifiers for the Olympics.

Australia and North Korea have pulled out of the World Cup over fears of Covid-19. The North Koreans won’t be at the Olympics altogether for the same reason.