Sunday, June 13, 2021

Pandelela: It is really not important to me

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You can motivate by fear, and you can motivate by reward. But both those methods are only temporary. The only lasting thing is self-motivation. – Homer Rice, American football coach

I would have never imagined the media’s innocuous query on the form of incentives for diving queen Pandelela Rinong following her historic gold medal feat at the recent Tokyo Fina Diving World Cup would put Datuk Abdul Karim Hamzah in a difficult situation.

The poor Youth and Sports Minister didn’t see it coming — an avalanche of criticism and netizen anger directed at him for his remarks that “if we keep on thinking of giving rewards every time somebody gets a gold medal or achieves fame, it will not be good because athletes normally love their sport and they are passionate about what they are doing … the state will have its own way of rewarding them.”

Abdul Karim, himself a sportsman at one time, should know what he is talking about; he meant well, but his good intentions were misinterpreted by some quarters, including social media.

If anyone implies that our diving star has not been receiving her due share of rewards, it’s not fair. Pandelela has been given monetary rewards and sports incentives amounting to hundreds of thousands of ringgit by both the federal and state governments ever since her double Olympic medal performance.

In case you do not know, she is on a lifelong pension of RM3,000 a month for her Olympic feat.

The ongoing controversy is centred around the datukship issue. Certain quarters — notably netizens and some NGOs — are clamouring for a datukship for Pandelela.
‘Datuk’ Pandelela Rinong?

Some may say, “Yeah, why not? Doesn’t she deserve it? ”Isn’t she a bit young for such an award? Of course, there will groups out there who will insist there were others, like squash supremo Nicol David, who received her datukship at 24, and badminton star Lee Chong Wei, who at 25 was made a ‘datuk’.

Did the titles spoil them? No, they didn’t. But the awards were given by their individual states that made their own decisions on the matter.

Pandelela should be allowed to concentrate on her diving career first. I believe Pandelela still has a good many years left before she decides to call it a day, and take a backseat to help coach and train young Sarawakians. That’s the time when the state should make her a ‘datuk’. She is only 28.

I had the opportunity to have had a WhatsApp conversation with the star diver last evening.

I asked if Pandelela thought she should be given a datukship or that her parents should be recognised for their sacrifices, especially in giving her all the moral support and encouragement. I remember Datuk Mohd Sidek Abdullah Kamar, the coach-father of the Sidek brothers who was made a ‘datuk’ for his sacrifices to see through his sons’ badminton careers.

Now, read the young beautiful diver’s touching reply which I reproduce here in toto:

“It is really not important to me whether I or my family should be awarded titles. This is not my objective as an athlete.

“I do this for the love of the sports and for my sense of achievement. Everyone wants to excel in their field and I am not any different.

“I accept any rewards or incentives given by the government with gratitude. As in all rewards, I take them as a blessing and am happy regardless.

“Sponsorships obviously help an athlete as it offers them additional income. It is part of work and these will help us when we retire.”

Honestly, I was touched by her reply.

I also had a WhatsApp conversation with the great ‘Flying Doctor’ Dr Mani Jegathesan of the Sixties who held multiple national and regional short distance records, some of which stood for almost half a century.

Jega, as he is known, thinks there are several more good years left in Pandelela. “Yes, don’t spoil her. She is only 28.” There you are Datuk Abdul Karim; you have support from a onetime great who is now residing in Melbourne.

“During our time, we were in amateur sports and we were not permitted to receive any money … unlike now where we can sign endorsement contracts, etc.”
But it didn’t matter to the athletes of the past as the fact that they got to don national colours was the ultimate joy.

“And the satisfaction of winning or breaking a record will put your mind on a high altitude for a very long time,” says Jega.

He says the government these days has monetary rewards and incentives for certain victories and these are good enough.

As for titles, he says, “Titles like ‘datuk’ could come when you retire, when you are sitting down and talking to your children and grandchildren and they will call you ‘datuk’.”

On a serious note, he says titles and awards must come at a stage when one has retired and enjoying the fruits of one’s achievements.

“When you are actively competing, you are just one more person on the lane, and you don’t expect the starter or the next athlete on the lane to say, ‘Hey, Datuk, how are you this morning?’”

Jega thinks Pandelela can be rewarded with titles after she retires, but for the moment the monetary rewards and other rewards that she is receiving will help her to train, to concentrate and do even better.

As for netizens and certain quarters clamouring for a datukship for Pandelela, he had this to say: “The public, netizens or citizens are entitled to their opinions. This is a free country … do not kill their views … it’s up to the people in authority to decide what is appropriate and when to award the athletes; it is up to the leaders to be sensible.”

So, ladies and gentlemen, here we are. Two persons, one a former great and the other, our darling diver Pandelela, have spoken. They aren’t complaining — one didn’t complain before and the other is not complaining now.

Let the authorities discuss with Pandelela what she wants and what is good for her.
Mbak sapur tangan (stop interfering)!

Secara Rawak

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