By: Shalini V Selvan (BAC Apprentice)
Rain or shine, what always brings Malaysians together, apart from food, is the love for sports, giving us the perfect opportunity to celebrate our diverse identities as a united nation. When our dedicated athletes represent the country, competing in international sport events and tournaments, we cheer and support them from the comforts of home, and when there is a victorious moment, the entire country celebrates, and balloons with pride, as we proudly watch the flag being hoisted while the national anthem echoes.
At the recent Tokyo Paralympics, our Malaysian athletes once again did the nation proud, as the Jalur Gemilang and Negaraku made its presence several times. Malaysians witnessing this were simply overjoyed, with hearts filled with an intense sense of patriotism. When the multi-sport event ended on 5th September, Malaysia bagged 3 gold and 2 silver medals, setting a new world record! It is in fact; the best performance Malaysia has ever given at a Paralympics event.
Let us take a moment to appreciate our Paralympic heroes:
(Credit: The Star)
BONNIE BUNYAU GUSTIN happens to be a powerlifting legacy, following his Sarawakian father’s footsteps, Gustin Jenang, who competed in Para powerlifting, at the 2010 World Championships in Kuala Lumpur. It makes you wonder whether his father was his source of inspiration, when he decided to take up the sport himself, at the tender age of 15. Prior to winning Malaysia’s first ever Paralympic gold medal in powerlifting, he was already holding the impressive current world record of 230kg, which he accomplished when he competed at the 11th Fazza Dubai Powerlifting World Cup, in June 2021. It is no surprise that in Tokyo, he managed to break the Games record of 227kg, which was set in 2016 by Rasool Mohsin from Iraq.
(Credit: The Borneo Post)
JONG YEE KHIE, is our second powerlifter to win a medal at the Tokyo Paralympics. This hairdresser snatched us the silver medal, in the men’s 107kg category. The 237kg he lifted during his second attempt, earned him the silver, coming in very close to a Mongolian powerlifter who got the gold. Still, we are immensely proud of our Sarawakian athlete, as it was a significant improvement for the 32-year-old, when compared to his debut at the Rio Games, where he was placed in the 97kg category.
(Credit: The Star)
CHEW WEI LUN is a man who has had to be very independent from an early age, steering him to develop a liking towards Boccia. The sport brings him such comfort, that he willingly took unpaid leave for 3 months, just so he could train for the Individual BC1 category. During the finals, he confidently went up against World No.1, David Smith from Britain. Our athlete managed to defeat him, to Smith’s surprise, during the first set. Finishing with a silver (2-4), it served as a paragon debut, for the young athlete from down south, Johor Bahru.
CHEAH LEIK HOU had us all on the edge of our seats! It is no secret that Malaysians support their badminton players a little biasedly. The nail-biting Men’s Singles SU5 match against Indonesia’s D. Anrimusthi, ended with a bang! Cheah Leik Hou is the first Malaysian para-badminton player, to win a gold medal in the event. An interesting fact about him is that his right hand has less strength and stability, due to Erb’s palsy, but that never stopped him from competing in both able-bodied and para-badminton tournaments during his university days in Universiti Putra Malaysia! That same drive and determination had him breezing through the competition, only dropping one set.
(Credit: The Star)
ABDUL LATIF ROMLY from Perlis, successfully snagged a gold medal in Rio 2016. In total, he has brought home 3 gold medals to date. With a record of 7.45m despite an injury, once again, he stood on the winner’s podium, filled with pride, after his T20 Men’s Long Jump event bringing Malaysia its 3rd gold medal.
MUHAMMAD ZIYAD ZOLKEFLI sent Malaysians into a frenzy of awe and pride on Merdeka Day, when he smashed his own world record and set an entirely new benchmark for all athletes around the globe, as he hurled a magnificent 17.94m, in the Men’s Shot Put F20! It is also a remarkable accomplishment within the able-bodied Malaysian athlete’s record, which is 17.54m. However, after being declared the winner, he was disqualified for being 3 minutes late to the call room, instantly voiding his throw and removing him from the leader board. Ziyad Zolkefli may not have won the gold medal, but he surely has won the hearts of Malaysians.
Overall, it was a month of wins for Malaysia! As we rooted for our athletes during the Tokyo Games, we were reminded that despite our current political and economic state, we are all filled with raging patriotism. The love that we all share for our country, may need a little boost every now and then for it to surface, but is always there at the crux of our hearts.
With Malaysia Day just around the corner, patriotism and pride fills the air. Let us celebrate our wins together.