KUALA LUMPUR, April 13 — Diving queen Pandelela Rinong may have a brave heart, as evident from her composure when jumping off 10-meter high platforms, but not known to many she is actually fearful of needles.

However, for her own safety and that of others, the 28-year-old braced herself for the COVID-19 vaccine jab today despite suffering from trypanophobia (extreme fear of injections and needles) since young.

“I’m the type who is scared of needles, but thankfully it was a painless process. The nurse was good and everyone was friendly and cooperative,” she said.

She told reporters this after receiving her first jab of Pfizer-BioNTech together with 263 other athletes and officials at the Desa Tasik Sports Complex vaccination centre in Cheras here. The immunisation programme was for athletes and officials involved with the Tokyo Olympics from July 23 to Aug 8 and Paralympics from Aug 24 to Sept 5.

The Sarawak native said with the vaccination, she is now more confident of going through her daily training routine and competitions, including the Diving World Cup in Tokyo scheduled for May 1-6.

Pandelela, who won the women’s 10m synchronised platform silver at the 2016 Rio Olympics with Cheong Jun Hoong, said she could not wait to get back to competition after being out of action for more than a year.

Gymnastics queen Farah Ann Abdul Hadi said she now feels safe travelling to the FIG World Challenge Cup in Cairo, Egypt in June, for her first competition since the Philippines SEA Games in November 2019.

“I have not competed for so long, and after this (vaccination) I’m more at ease to compete overseas despite the threat of the pandemic,” she added.

The 26-year-old gymnast appeared to be both excited and nervous to join the Olympics after having won three gold medals – all-around, uneven bars and floor exercise events – in the Philippines SEA Games.

“Very excited and a little bit nervous for the competition. We have had an internal competition with our internal judges, athletes but of course I’m very excited to compete overseas for the upcoming season.

“My aim is to go out and compete, see the level of competition and get my confidence up again,” she added.

Following are the reactions of selected athletes after their vaccination:

Farah Ann Abdul Hadi (gymnast): “Actually there was no pain during the injection. The whole process was very short, very comfortable. I’m grateful for getting vaccinated.”

Nur Dhabitah Sabri (diving): “I hope there will be no symptoms which can affect my training; everything went well.”

Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli (para athletics): “I did not feel any pain. This vaccination gives me protection but I still have to follow the standard operating procedure.”

Muhammad Fadhil Mohd Zonis (track cycling): “I was nervous and excited as I’ve read about side effects, but after 15 minutes my body still felt fine.”

S. Suresh (para archery): “This vaccination is good for us because we all want to prepare for Tokyo. I’m happy that after getting the vaccine, I have a chance to compete.”


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