Lela Rinong has K-pop fantasies before diving
BY BEH YUEN HUI
Every athlete and aspiring sport star has, at one time or another, imagined what it would be like to compete at the Olympics, to step up to the mark and get to the finish line, to win and to hear their name being called to the podium for their medal presentation.
But newly minted Olympic medallist Pandelela Rinong Pamg—or as she likes to be called, Lela—has a different picture going through her head when she's standing on the edge of that diving platform, preparing to plunge 10 metres into the water below.
"When I'm on the diving board, I image myself as a K-pop artiste, standing on a stage, about to give my best concert," she told Daily Chilli with a laugh, adding that she also gets a boost from her teammates cheering her on.
Sport watchers have noted that more and more athletes are turning to music to get them into "the zone". Swimmer Michael Phelps famously shows up for every competition with headphones on. Lela's soundtrack is a lot of K-pop, especially songs from the boy band Big Bang.
"Those guys put in so many hours and so much effort to perform their best for their fans—just like us divers," she said.
Despite the entire buzz around her after her London Games bronze, Lela is just like any other teenage girl. She likes chocolates, she loves designing dresses, she blushes over boys, and although the 19-year-old from Kuching has just received a RM100,000 cheque from The Star Publications for her Olympic performance, she's not one to turn down a free concert ticket.
"I wanted to go to the Big Bang concert, but now someone's given me a ticket for free, so I'll keep my money," she said with a huge grin. "I'll buy presents for my family and friends and save the rest." (Big Bang will play KL on 27th October and tickets cost RM98 to RM688.)
Meanwhile, weeks have passed since the Olympics was done, but Lela says she made some terrific friends and really bonded with the divers from China and Mexico who she still keeps in touch with.
"We're all friends now, we chat on Facebook, we make phone calls," she said. "It's funny—we didn't talk to each other much during the Games because everyone was so focused on the competition. But after that, we were like, wow!"
She also told DC that they are all planning to exchange gifts when they meet again. "The Chinese divers love our white coffee, so I'll bring some for them the next time. And the Mexicans will give me my favourite chocolate, Kinder Delice, which you can't get here."
Now that she's a star, of course, we wanted to know if there was a boy in the picture. "Ha ha, no! I've got friends, best friends, special friends, lots of friends, but no boyfriend," she squealed.
So what would the right kind of boy be for Lela? He doesn't have to be from the pool but he's got to have a good sense of humour. "Definitely funny," she said.
Published: 3rd September 2012