“Most of the time, a dolphin. Sometimes, a gym rat. Occasionally, a hedgehog.”
This is how uber-successful Malaysian diver Pandelela Rinong described her life as an athlete in an Instagram post a week before her fourth appearance at a Commonwealth Games – at Birmingham 2022 in which she's competing in the women's 10m platform diving event.
The first two are understandable, but hedgehog?
The photo to which the caption alludes shows the 29-year-old having acupuncture, a treatment that involves needles placed in specific parts of the body to stimulate sensory nerves under the skin and in the muscles. Hence the hedgehog reference.
Scouted to learn swimming at school, Rinong took one look at the springboard and knew she wanted to leap from it. Leap she did – despite not being able to swim.
"I saw this diving platform and asked (the scouting coach) if I could jump from that platform," Rinong told an Olympics podcast ahead of her appearance at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021.
"She said, yes. So I jumped from the lowest height which was the one metre platform, and soon I was jumping off the five metre platform.
"I remember I felt so excited after the very first jump. As I was the only one who dared to jump from the one metre and also the three metre platform."
Twenty one years later and Pandelela is Malaysia’s most decorated diver, who continues to make history for her nation.
An Olympian at 15, Rinong surprised everyone, including herself, by qualifying for Beijing 2008, where she came 27th in the 10m platform.
Four years later at London 2012, she became a household name when the then 19-year-old became the first female Malaysian diver to win an Olympic medal – claiming bronze in the 10m platform.
Accolades for her nation since then include a first-ever medal at the World Aquatics Championships (2009), a first diving gold medal at the Commonwealth Games (2010), and – after claiming silver alongside Cheong Jun Hoong in the 10m synchronised platform at Rio 2016 – the first female team silver medallists at an Olympic Games.
Along with the success, however, comes the pressure of a now expectant nation.
"The fame can bring you up, but also can bring you down. And as you get stronger, you tend to get lonelier because there are a lot of obstacles coming in," said Rinong who left home at 14, away from her family, to pursue her dream. That dream has now come to fruition and her passion as she heads towards the back end of her career is to inspire others to take. up the sport she loves so much.
“I want to make this sport something that [new] generations can join in not [only] just as a serious sport, but also as a fun sport in the future,” she said.
This week, Rinong's personal quest is to add to her Commonwealth Games tally of two golds, two silvers and a bronze. The diving starts on Thursday 4 August with the women’s 10m platform preliminary competition.
Schedule: When to watch Pandelela Rinong at Birmingham 2022
Thurs 4 July
1pm-3.45pm (BST) Women’s 10m platform preliminary
6pm-9pm (BST) Women’s 10m platform final
Fri 5 August
10.05am (BST) Women’s 1m springboard preliminary
6.05pm (BST) Women’s 1m springboard final
How to watch 2022 Commonwealth Games via TV and livestream services
The Commonwealth Games will be broadcast live in many parts of the world.
UK: BBC TV, BBC iPlayer and BBC website.
Canada: CBC Sports, CBC Sports app
Australia: Channel 7, 7Plus
New Zealand: Sky, TVNZ
India: Sony LIV
Further TV broadcast and digital live streaming details can be found on the Commonwealth Games website here.
You can follow all the action via our live update blog article on Olympics.com.