KUALA LUMPUR March 10, 2011-National diver Pandelela Rinong received a belated birthday present when she was voted the Best Athlete in the Sportswriters Association of Malaysia (SAM)-100PLUS Sports Awards 2010 in the city.
The Sarawakian, who turned 18 on Wednesday, is the first diver to win the prestigious award which comes with a cash prize of RM10,000 and a trophy.
Pandalela made history by clinching the first-ever diving gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi last year when she defeated Olympic medal winners from Australia and Britain to win the women's 10m platform gold.
She also won a silver medal with Leong Mun Yee in the synchronised 10m platform final.
She was the toast of the nation when she bagged two silver medals in the individual 3m springboardand 10m platform disciplines at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in July 2010. Her two silver medals made her the first
Malaysian female to mount the podium at a multi-Games meet organised by the International Olympic Committee.
The teenager also marked her Asian Games debut with one silver in the synchronised 10m platform and one bronze medal in the individual discipline.
A stunned Pandelela, who was feeling under the weather, said: "I can't believe it. I honestly didn't expect to win the award as I was up against some great champions.
"This is a big honour for me and I hope to build on this success. My main goal is to do well at the World Championships in Shanghai in July as it is an Olympic qualifying event.”
"The finalists (top 12) will earn a place in the London Olympics next year and that is my initial goal apart from trying to get a medal," added the Bidayuh.
The other nominees were five-time world squash champion Nicol David, world No. 1 shuttler Datuk Lee Chong Wei and Keirin king Azizulhasni Awang and shooter Nur Suryani.
Wushu exponent Yeap Wai Kin, who won two gold medals in the World Junior Championships was named Most Promising Athlete.
There were also several prizes for reporting with Astro Awani's Mohd Zulhelmi Zainal Azam winning the RM7,000 top prize.
The award, an annual event of the Sportswriters Association of Malaysia (SAM) was sponsored by istonic drink giant, 100PLUS and backed by Ministry of youth and Sports Malaysia.
List of winners:
Best Athlete: Pandelela Rinong (Diving)
Most Promising Athlete: Yeap Wai Kin (Wushu)
Special Award from National Sports Association: Datuk Lee Chong Wei
Outdo Yourself Award: National football team (Suzuki Cup champions)
Best Report (Print): Wan Mohd Fakhrul Anwar (Kosmo!)
Best Report (Electronic): Ku Mohd Lufti Ku Yahya (RTM)
Best Commentary (Print): Rajes Paul (The Star)
Best Commentary (Eletronic): Rozihan Mohd Raji (RTM)
Best Photographer: Mazlan Samion (Bernama)
Best Special Report: Mohd Zulhelmi Zainal Azam (Astro Awani)
Best Reporter: Mohd Zulhelmi Zainal Azam (Astro Awani)