Featured, Sports

5 things you NEED to know about Malaysia’s Paralympic heroes

1) Ridzuan Puzi’s long battle

It was never easy for Ridzuan Puzi. According to his father, Ridzuan was diagnosed with cerebral palsy after his first birthday, which broke his parents’ hearts. They constantly worried about his future and whether he would be able to live independently, but Ridzuan’s determination, coupled with assistance from various parties, seems to have propelled him towards impeccable heights. He made his first professional appearance at the ASEAN Paralympic Games in 2011 and five years later, he is now a world champion as well as a Paralympic gold medalist. Fantastic stuff!

Photo Credit: Twitter
Photo Credit: Twitter

2) Ridzuan’s professional ‘pillar of strength’

It goes without saying that Ridzuan’s parents played an enormous part in his growth as a professional athlete, but another man responsible for constantly motivating Ridzuan to do better is Malaysian Paralympics Head Coach, R. Jeganathan. He has got tonnes of experience in athletics, having previously coached M. Ramachandran – arguably one of the finest long-distance runner Malaysia has ever produced. Jega was there when Ridzuan made his official bow at the ASEAN Para Games in 2011. He was there when Ridzuan finished 5th at the Sainsbury Anniversary Games in 2013. Last night, he was also there, to console and celebrate with an emotional Ridzuan, right after he clinched Malaysia’s first ever gold medal at the Paralympic Games.

3) The man who ‘discovered’ Ridzuan

The road is never easy for paralympic athletes, given how easy it is to trivialise their talent and potential in a world that unfortunately pays more attention towards non-Para athletes. Thankfully for Ridzuan, a man called Affizam Amdan took the extra initiative to help Ridzuan develop his talent, after spotting him in 2006. “I would like to thank everyone that has helped him, especially Am (Affizam Amdan), a voluntary coach, who first spotted my son’s potential and guided him since 2006 and he is still giving advice until today,” Ridzuan’s father, Mohd Puzi Mat Isa told Astro Awani.

Photo Credit: cbc.ca
Photo Credit: cbc.ca

4) Ziyad’s humble ‘kuey teow’ beginnings

Ziyad was absolutely incredible last night as he smashed the world record TWICE en route to winning the F20 (intellectual disability) gold medal last night. We’ve honestly run out of superlatives to describe that feat. And it’s even more amazing when you consider that Ziyad was running a kuey teow stall in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, not too long ago. “Ziyad does not like to trouble people, he is very independent and is a very good cook. Before he joined the National Sports Council, Ziyad was selling kueh teow in Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman,” his dad was quoted as saying by New Straits Times. So remember folks, if life throws you a lemon, you slice it and squeeze it over a plate of char kuay teow in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. But you never stop working and you go get a Paralympic gold medal, by smashing the world record TWICE.

5) How ‘Bangsa Malaysia’ shaped the champion in Ziyad

Sports is quickly turning into our largest source of racial comfort and solace, especially under an environment where differences are being widely instigated and celebrated by bigoted sects of our society. But Ziyad’s story has a beautiful segment in it, that undoubtedly reflects the true value of what it means to be a Malaysian. “I still remember when my son was taught to read when he was in Year Five by an Indian teacher until he got number three in the class. Ziyad is surrounded by people who love him, his sporting talent was spotted and assisted by a Chinese teacher in Kelantan. Until today, the teacher still follows his development. This is what sports is all about. There is no race or religion,” his dad told NST. If anything, it’s a timely reminder of what we can produce and achieve, if we’re able to see past our differences, and embrace our identity as Malaysians.

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