Last month, Malaysia bagged two medals (a silver and a bronze) from the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, our support and prayers for our Malaysian athletes competing in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics were above and beyond. The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games have officially ended, with 22 Malaysian athletes qualifying for nine events from 24th August to 5th September 2021, all of whom have proven that no barrier could deter them from doing their best to bring some medals home. After watching them as well as the athletes from other countries give their all, here are some of our favourite moments from the events that touched our hearts.

1. Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli might have missed out on bagging gold, but won the hearts of Malaysians

By now, most of us would have already read about the heart-breaking moment when Ziyad was disqualified from the Games after he had claimed the gold medal in the F20 category of the shot put event. Of course, Malaysians couldn’t hold their anger back and went all out to slam his Ukrainian rival, Maksym Koval, for lodging the complaint, but the one thing we can all take heed from Ziyad was the statement that he issued after the drama. “I want to take this opportunity to urge all Malaysians to stop criticising my Ukrainian friend. I hope everyone understands that he also competes in my (impairment) category and he has feelings like me too. I can’t imagine how he’s feeling now in such a situation,” shared Ziyad in a statement published by the New Straits Times. He added that, “We need to spread more positivity, and that is the only way forward.” Now, this is that we all hope to see appearing in the news more often. If more people could behave like Ziyad, the world would be a better place to live in!

2. Alia Issa became the first female parathlete in the Refugee Paralympic team

Despite her Syrian origins, Alia was born in Athens, Greece, and contracted smallpox at the age of  four. As a result of the severe fever, her movement and speech were affected. She was then bullied in school as she appeared to be different, but that didn’t discourage her from pursuing her dreams. Alia decided to concentrate on sports as a means to overcome the grief of her father’s death at the of 16, and ever since then, she’s been soaring high! Club throw was what got her to where she is today, and she came in eighth overall. Alia was also the flag bearer for the Refugee Paralympic team at the opening ceremony – something that she’s extremely proud of today.

3. Bonnie Bunyau Gustin brought home the first gold medal for Malaysia

Since young, we’ve always been taught to dream big, and that’s exactly what Bonnie did at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. In a statement, Bonnie revealed that his father, Gustin Jenang, who bagged a bronze medal at the Kuala Lumpur 2017 ASEAN Para Games, inspired him to pursue a career in powerlifting, and so, he dedicated his victory to his dad and his coach. Born and bred in Sarawak, Bonnie was able to break Iraqi Paralympic powerlifter, Rasool Mohsin’s record of 227kg that was set in 2016, but at the same time, he claimed that fatigue was one of the reasons why he couldn’t break his own record of 230kg that he had set at the 11th Fazza Dubai Powerlifting World Cup back in June. Nevertheless, Bonnie isn’t going to let this dampen his spirits and is going to continue to do better in the future.

4. Husnah Kukundakwe, the youngest Paralympian, inspired us with her story and achievements

Not everyone dreams like Husnah, who has set the bar high by proving to the world that despite being born without a forearm and with a deformity in her left hand, she can still go far in her chosen sport. Like many other parathletes, Husnah faced a lot of discrimination during her early school days. However, her parents didn’t give up trying to find an adequate pool for her to train in, and so, Husnah isn’t giving up on her dreams either. Despite coming in sixth in the women’s breaststroke SB8 100m, she proudly revealed at a press conference, “Uganda has access to watch the Paralympics on TV and Africa in general is a land where people with disabilities are outcasts to society. Most parents (in Uganda) who give birth to children with disabilities just abandon them, sometimes they end up on the streets and become beggars. Maybe if they watch the Paralympics, they’ll realise that the choice they made was really bad and they should’ve supported their children to achieve their dreams. I came here, competed and officially got the title of a Paralympian. My career is only beginning and I can’t wait to see how far my journey will go.”

5. Suresh Selvathamby overcame negative public perceptions to keep striding forward

As Malaysia’s first world champion in para archery, Suresh has been gaining a lot of attention ever since he won the 2019 World Archery Para Championship in the Netherlands. What amazes us is how he confidently went ahead and did his best despite having to compete with a prosthetic leg after surviving a lorry accident when he was 13. Even after that episode, Suresh had to work hard to support his mother and younger brother while pushing aside comments from critics who labelled him as ‘useless’ to the family because of his ambition to become an archer. Regardless of what people said, the determined Suresh was able to earn a ticket at the Paralympics in the men’s individual recurve W3 event as a standing amputee. He dedicated his victory to his new-born baby who he has yet to meet due to the numerous quarantines and training bubble SOPs.

6. Haven Shepherd proved to us that with a strong will, you don’t need legs to go far in life

Labelled as “the miracle child”, Haven has been through a lot in life that resulted in both of her legs being amputated. When she was young, her parents had an affair in Vietnam and her dad decided to detonate a bomb to kill the entire family. Although she managed to survive the explosion, Haven lost her legs in the tragedy, but that didn’t stop the strong-willed girl from choosing to become a swimmer. Today, she represents USA, and despite finishing in fifth place, she has left her mark in the world what she has achieved so far. Feeling most at ease in the pool, Haven competed in the women’s 200m individual medley at the Paralympics Tokyo 2020 games and she’s pleased with her own effort. At the same time, Haven made it a point to not fixate on things that are holding her back and instead, concentrate on the things that benefit her – something that we could all take heed from.

Featured image: @refugees, @ziyadzolkefli, @havenfaithshepherd/Instagram
Compiled by:
Lester Liang

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