Monday, July 23, 2012

Our claim to fame

With the flag-bearing duties handed to diver Pandelela Rinong despite the last-gasp attempt to have Datuk Lee Chong Wei given the honour (read here), the international media spotlight in the London Olympic Games will fall on only a select few Malaysians, even if their performance on their respective fields falls short of expectations.

By virtue of his stature, Chong Wei's present condition - from his diet of hot porridge to help him recuperate from a severe ankle injury to his rivalry with Lin Dan - will come under great scrutiny.

Attention will also be given to Pandelela, the first female competitor, and second diver to be given the flag-bearing duties. The 19-year old lass from Sarawak, gold medallist in the 2010 Commonwealth Games, is a medal prospect in synchronised diving.

Pandelela will carry Jalur Gemilang on July 27 - Friday London time

Also assured of her 15-minutes of fame, regardless of her sharpshooting skills in the 10m air rifle category, is an eight month pregnant Nur Suryani Taibi, the nation's first ever ISSF shooter to qualify for the Olympics.

The 2010 Asian Games bronze medallist and 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist was given a rousing send-off with a doa recital (prayers) by her neighbours in her residential area at Puncak Jalil on Sunday. She will be accompanied by husband, Marhazli Mhotar.

There will be demands for more interviews than ever for Suryani in London

Bryan (third from right) given the duty in 2004

When diver Bryan Nickson Lomas was named as the flag-bearer of the Athens Games in 2004, the idea was for him to market Malaysia's belief in youth. It worked. The amount of publicity, air time and column inches it generated was invaluable.

Everybody wanted to have a piece of, or do a piece on Bryan - from Suddeutsche Zeitung, Time magazine to the foreign wires - for the Sarawakian lad was not only the contingent's flagbearer, he was also the youngest, smallest and lightest male competitor of the Athens Games.

Bryan remains a member of the select band of 14 personalities to be bestowed the honour. Here's the full list since Malaya made their debut in Melbourne in 1956.

The Melbourne Games 1956 - Tan Kim Bee (weightlifting)
The Rome Games 1960 - Kuda Ditta (athletics)
The Tokyo Games 1964 - Shaharudin Mohd Ali (athletics) now Datuk
The Mexico Games 1968 - Nashatar Singh (athletics) now Datuk
The Munich Games 1972 - Ali Bakar (football)
The Montreal Games 1976 - Ishtiaq Mobarak (athletics)
The Los Angeles Games 1984 - Sabiamad Abdul Ahad (shooting)
The Seoul Games 1988 - Nordin Mohd Jadi (athletics)
The Barcelona Games 1992 - Razif Sidek (badminton)
 The Atlanta Games 1996 - Nor Saiful Zaini Nasiruddin (hockey)
The Sydney Games 2000 - Mirnawan Nawawi (hockey)
The Athens Games 2004 - Bryan Nickson Lomas (diving)
The Beijing Games 2008 - Azizulhasni Awang (cycling)
The London Games 2012 - Pandelela Rinong Pamg (diving)

From Athens, I was among the few Malaysian journalists to chronicle the moments when the eyes of the world were fixed on the contingent as the Olympic family celebrated the homecoming of the Games.

Clad in beige-coloured Malay traditional dress, the baju Melayu Teluk Belanga Johor style (round neck collar fastened by one button) with yellow, red and blue motifs on the samping tied P. Ramlee style, the contingent marched past with a three-time Olympian and former National Scientist of the Year leading them out of the dug-out and the smallest, youngest and lightest male competitor of the Games as the flagbearer.

The contingent emerged from the bowels of the Olympic Stadium in Maroussi after Morocco and were represented by 11 athletes. The rest were swimmers Allen Ong, Saw Yi Khy, divers Leong Mun Yee and Gracie Junita Terry Pega, sprinter Nazmizan Muhammad and race walker Yuan Yufang, sailor Kevin Lim, women's badminton doubles Chin Ee Hui-Wong Pei Tty and shooter Ricky Teh.

The remaining 13 were excused to prepare for their events starting the following day while Josiah Ng and Elaine Teo were scheduled to arrive the following week. The officials were headed by chef-de-mission Datuk Dr M Jegathesan (now Tan Sri), a three-time Olympian and the first ever Malaysian to advance to the semi-final of the Games. He was also a recipient of the National Science Award in 1995. One of the most admired sporting heroes in Malaysia, Dr Jegathesan completes a unique distinction in Athens, having been part of the Games as an athlete, medical doctor, deputy chef-de-mission and now the CDM.

Thanks to a 33-strong contingent that boast a former World No 1, Malaysia's first woman flagbearer and a pregnant shooter, Malaysia will be assured of worldwide fame, whether or not our cream of the crop returns with a gold!


mimya said...

Not-so-high expectation given to Azizulhasni and Chong Wei (due to recent injury) is actually a blessing in disguise for both of them. With less pressure hopefully they will win gold.

To Pandalela, hope you could cope with the increasing pressure we put on you. actually can win a medal. And it's not a surprise if you win gold because you have that ability and capability.

Malaysia boleh...good luck!

kaki sukan said...

Pandella, go girl.. do your best...that's all we want,