By IAN YEE
WE’VE had plenty of celebrities and famous personalities walk through the doors of our office at Menara Star, but none have caused quite the same buzz as Olympic heroes Datuk Lee Chong Wei and Pandelela Rinong.
They were at our office to receive a cash reward of RM100,000 each from The Star Media Group, for their achievements at the London 2012 Olympics where Chong Wei bagged a silver medal in badminton, and Pandelela a historic bronze in diving.
It seemed like half the people in the office came down to welcome them, and everybody – even the most seasoned editors, journalists and photographers – was trying to get a photo with the duo.
Of course, being the most syok sendiri people in the building, seasoned in the art of ambushing celebrities for our Facebook profile photos, R.AGE was able to squeeze through the crowd and score a few precious interview minutes with LCW and Pandelela.
Malaysia really couldn’t have asked for better sporting heroes. They are both just so incredibly humble and down-to-earth. Chong Wei was quiet and unassuming, while Pandelela was actually quite a riot! She had a great sense of humour, and the self-proclaimed K-pop fan even showed us some of her Gangnam Style moves!
Anyway, here’s how the interviews went:
Lee Chong Wei
What are you up to now the Olympics is over?
I’ll be going to the Japan Open, but only because of my sponsors. If not, I’ll be resting at home. My ankle is still not 100% recovered. I’m still doing my rehab, and because it’s after the Olympics, I really need some rest.
There was such an out-pouring of emotion on social media after the match. How did that make you feel?
I felt good. Maybe it’s because I felt very sad after the match, but I didn’t check my Facebook while I was there. I only checked it after I got back to Malaysia. I felt terrible, because I only lost by two points, and I couldn’t get the gold medal.
To me, the gold was very important. It meant a lot to me. I feel there’s a huge difference between getting silver and winning gold, especially because Malaysia has never won gold before. I was hoping to be able to be the first to achieve that – not for me, but for Malaysia.
What would your message be to the young people of Malaysia?
I hope the young people of Malaysia who watched the game – and those who followed my career – will work even harder, and they will be inspired to pick up badminton or any other sport.
My message to them will be to just work hard. If you do that, some day you will be a number one.
The future of Malaysian badminton – where do we go from here?
The most important thing is the academy. The academy coaches are very important for the junior players, to help them in terms of their tactics. For me that’s what I hope BAM (Badminton Association of Malaysia) can make a positive decision on.
How do you deal with the pressure of having the hopes of an entire nation on your shoulders?
I believe everyone faces pressure in their lives. But I know a lot more people put their hopes on me as well. When I got injured, I told myself not to put more pressure on myself, and just sun qi zi ran (that’s like Chinese for “go with the flow”).
During the game, I told myself not to think too much about it, not to worry about whether I would win or lose, and to just give my best, to fight. Stress and pressure is something everyone goes through – all that matters is how hard you’re willing to fight through it.
And finally… What does Merdeka mean to you?
Our country is something very important to me. It doesn’t matter that I’m a national athlete. Our country is developing all the time.
But as an athlete, I hope to bring the name “Malaysia” to countries all over the world. I want to help put Malaysia on the map.
How did you get involved in a sport like diving, which frankly isn’t really that popular in Malaysia?
I was selected for diving when I was eight. I trained in Kuching until 2007. At the age of 14, I was selected for the national team. I was selected by a diving coach, who was picking us for different aquatic sports based on our physical (attributes).
When I was young, I liked to show off. I could hold my breath longer than other kids, so I always wanted to show off. From there, I got a passion for diving. That’s why I’m still in this sport.
Have there been a lot of challenges for you in learning this sport?
Of course la! Injuries, you can’t meet your friends, you can’t see your parents… We train over eight hours a day. I still study, but I’ve had to postpone a lot for big competitions like the Olympics. But it’s all worth it la.
What are your goals now, given that you’ve already won an Olympic bronze medal?
My goal is to make diving more popular in Malaysia … By doing interviews like this one.
What keeps you going?
I like the feeling of competing. Even if you lose, you get something very valuable that will keep you going.
The last time we spoke, you said you liked to dance. What other hobbies do you have these days?
Sleeping (laughs). Nobody doesn’t like sleeping! I also like watching movies and going out with friends.
What else would you like to achieve in life?
I haven’t thought about it. But one thing for sure is I want to make Malaysia proud.
Do you see yourself in another Olympics?
I hope so. But first I’ll have to survive another four years of training!
What would your advice be for young people out there?
Once you start something – not just in sports but also in things like studies – don’t give up halfway. If you give up halfway, all your work will go to waste. You must have a proper ending to everything.
Even if you have just a one per cent chance, that one per cent could decide whether you win or lose in life. Agi idup agi ngelaban. It means as long as you’re alive, you can still fight (in Iban).