The gold medallists from the Rio Paralympics tell August Man how history is made
Photography: Eric Chow of Blink Studio
Creative Direction: Ibnu Aswan, assisted by Bryan Kong
Making his mark
Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli
Ziyad wakes up each morning with a strong purpose. His goals are clear and he does not waver from them. He means to be an outstanding athlete and if he ends the day without doing all he has to do to accomplish that, he feels that his day is not quite complete.
“I have a responsibility to my career,” he says in an interview with August Man. “I have to do what it takes in order to improve.”
It is that spirit that led to Ziyad bagging the gold medal at the Rio Paralympics, setting a new world record in the process.
“I did my best to break the world record,” he stresses. “It is for myself, my family and all who have supported me.”
Ziyad had previously participated in the London Paralympics and succeeded in securing bronze in the sport of shot put. This time around he surpassed that, adding more than one metre to his personal best, by throwing 16.84m. This surpassed the previous world record held by Australia’s Todd Hodgetts by 55cm.
“I am so grateful,” he says, referring to the reception he received from Malaysians in response to his win. “I never expected it. I did win in London before but the reception was not like this.”
It has, however, motivated him to continue to succeed. He has now set his sights on the World Championship set to take place in London next year. Ziyad puts in a solid eight hours on training each day. It is “extreme,” he admits. And it is not unlike that which “normal” athletes undergo but he understands that it is what he has to endure to achieve his goal.
“From young I set an outstanding target to be a world record holder,” he says. “That means I have to train more. I want to be known as a parathlete.”
To us Malaysians, he urges for our continued support.
“Support and continue to support,” he says. “Then there will be success again.”
Soaring to greater heights
Abdul Latif Romly:
It is an acknowledgement of the highest order,” says Abdul Latif Romly, describing his gold win at the Rio Paralympics. Abdul Latif set a new world record with a 7.60 metre jump in the T20 category, a feat that he achieved not once but three times, having completed a 7.47m and 7.54m on his second and third jumps. The previous record in this category was held by Spain’s Jose Exposito who jumped 7.37m in 2003.
Like his fellow athletes, the long jumper entered the Rio Paralympics with a target in mind.
“I prepared myself mentally,” he stresses. “I wanted to see the Jalur Gemilang fly.”
Now that has been accomplished. Abdul Latif has also set his sights on the World Championships to be held next year. His track record includes gold medals at the Asian Para Games 2014, ASEAN Para Games 2015, IPC Athletics World Championships 2015 and 18th Sukan Malaysia (Sukma) 2016. During Sukma 2016, Abdul Latif, who trains between seven to eight hours a day, delivered a performance which surpassed that of “normal” athletes.
His journey, however, has not been without challenges. His misses his family who lives in Perlis. It was while he was at school that his talents was noticed. Though, he admits, that at the time it was more playful. Now he hopes that Malaysians continue to support our parathletes while also urging those with disabilities to tap into their potential.
“Don’t be ashamed and don’t be shy.”
Mohamad Ridzuan Puzi
Ridzuan was the first to bag gold when he crossed the finish line in the 100m T36, clocking in 12.07 seconds. The 29 year old who has celebral palsy succeeded in beating the record of 12.25, set by Ukraine’s Roman Pavlyk at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.
It was at a school meet that Ridzuan was first spotted. Since then, Ridzuan has gone on to claim many golds including at 2011 Asian Para Games in Indonesia, the IPC World Athletic Championships in Doha, Qatar. He was also voted Paralympic Athlete of the Year at the 2015 Malaysian National Sports Awards. He now holds the distinction of being the first Malaysian to win a Paralympic gold.
It was thus no surprise to see Ridzuan return to much fanfare.
“I was so happy when I returned to see so many people,” he says.
This interview was first published in December 2016 issue of August Man