KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 29 — Being a champion athlete is not just about the glitter and joys of victories, as one also needs to deal with failures, disappointments and sacrifice.

Malaysian bowling ace Shalin Zulkifli, former squash legend Datuk Nicol David and diving queen Pandelela Rinong today shared their success stories and also how they overcame the hurdles to emerge among the best sports stars in the country.

Having already won the Malaysian Sportswoman Award thrice by 1997, the then 20-year-old Shalin was host Malaysia’s golden hope in the 1998 Commonwealth Games but ended up with silver in the women’s doubles event (with Lai Kin Ngoh).

“Winning the silver was good, but since I was thinking of the gold so much and facing pressure and expectations, I felt it was a failure. So after that I took a break, decided to relook and readjust my priorities…I pursued my studies in sports science at the University of Malaya.

“I think that is one of the best decisions in my life because when going to study there, I understood why I need to do certain things and why certain things must be done in a certain way. It made me a better athlete and made me survive for long,” she said during the Women in Sports 2020: One in A Million webinar organised by the National Sports Council (NSC).

In the webinar hosted by former national squash player Sharon Wee, Shalin also shared her gratefulness for the flexibility and opportunities for female athletes to pursue their dreams in the country, something not enjoyed in some countries.

Meanwhile, former eight-time world champion Nicol said to develop more young talents into stars in sports, the scouts and coaches at the state level should visit schools to encourage students to take up sports.

“We have many talents and they are raring to go, but just not given the chance. Hopefully, there will be focus on school programmes, not just our physical education class but something like giving some outlets to students in school to play sports and try their talents in different things.

“Now we are just waiting for something to come up. By the time they come up to NSC or state associations, it is too late to grab. Hopefully, can get them straight from the schools,” she said, pointing to Pandelela as an example of talent developed from school.

Talking on some of her challenging times, Nicol said winning her eighth and last World Championships in 2014, which included beating a number of Egyptians on their own soil, gave her a special feeling.

Sharing her story, two-time Olympics medallist Pandelela recalled that her decorated career in diving started at the age of eight when a coach visited her primary school for talent scouting for several aquatic sports.

“The coach explained about diving and the fact that it is an Olympic sport. So I caught the interest and wanted to try…Then gradually I realised that I am not afraid of height (to jump from the platform) compared to other students. Had a few achievements locally before fully focusing on diving,” she said.

By the age of 15, the Kuching native was already competing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She was not prepared mentally and physically for her debut, but she learned her lessons to subsequently bring back the country’s maiden medal in diving through the 10m platform event at the 2012 London edition. — Bernama