ALTHOUGH she did not manage to score any medals, national diver Nur Dhabitah Sabri won the hearts of many when the commentator of the diving event picked up on her cheerful demeanour on the 2016 Rio Olympics arena. “It was really unexpected because the smile was natural. Smiling is therapeutic for me; it helps me relax,” explained the 17-year-old. On top of international competitions and six days of eighthour trainings every week, the young lass was also juggling her final year of secondary school. By October, Nur Dhabitah had only been to school four times, and had a lot of catch-up to do for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examinations which were due to start the following month! Nonetheless, she braved through them all with ways she knows best: resilience and a smile. To start, share with us a highlight of your experience in Rio de Janeiro. I was very lucky because I got to be at the Olympics – it’s every athlete’s dream! I also met Novak Djokovic and Usain Bolt. The trip there with my seniors and teammates was also really memorable. Even though we always go for competitions together, travelling to the Olympics was very different. The experience was magical for me. What did you think of those commentaries about you? Nothing, actually. I didn’t realise they were going around until I came back from Rio and saw the replay of the event. The commentator was describing the smile – it was all about the smile. I wasn’t expecting that at all. People were commenting on my Instagram while I was there, but I only found out about it upon returning. Due to the nature of your sports career, have you ever felt lonely or that you’re missing out on things regular teenagers do? I am never lonely because I always have my family and friends, but I do feel like I am missing out. Because of my schedule, I don’t get to hang out with my friends, and I have to avoid certain activities to avoid injuries. But in a way this process also disciplines me and saves me from many things that would be bad for me. So even though I am limited in one area, it builds me up in other aspects like my character. Also, I actually don’t really mind this trade-off because I chose this life. As a national athlete, what do you want people to know? I want people to know that whatever we do is not easy, it comes with a price and a lot of hard training. It puts me off when I hear comments like, “Oh, so you just jump off and come back up and jump again!” or even “Oh, even my grandmother can do that!” Another thing is the physical distance from our families. It’s so difficult – at least for me, because I want to be with them, hang out and eat with them all the time. During this year’s Hari Raya, I was in China eating rice with kicap (soy sauce) and kangkung (water spinach) while my family was having fun. It was very sad. Do you have a motto you live by? ‘Don’t give up’. When I was 14, I was pushed really hard by my coach – I really couldn’t stand it. That was one of the biggest challenges for me, but I was determined to prove to the coach that I could do it. The one thing that I kept telling myself is to never give up. I had to keep challenging myself to cope with how far my coach was pushing me. That was when I started to level up. What’s next for you, and where do you see yourself in five years? Next year, there will be the SEA Games, the World Championships, and the World Series, but I am not sure yet. I sure hope to be a medallist at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics! TRIVIA Other interests: Parkour, music, and reading. On her playlist: BIGBANG and 2NE1. Favourite subject in school: English. Favourite author: Stephen King.