Malaysia at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games
Last time, we have covered the athletes that we have sent to represent Malaysia at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. This time, let us take a look at the parathletes for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games instead. Parathletes are athletes who compete in spite of their disability or impairment. These are the individuals who have overcome the adversity in their life to achieve greater heights, who are living testaments to encourage all of us that we can continue living through any affliction and come out even stronger.
Suresh Selvathamby, who hails from Kedah, had lost his leg to a road accident in 2007. However, that did not stop him from winning a silver medal at the 2012 Para Sukma Games, the same year he took up archery. Since then, he has gone on to win a silver medal at the 2017 3rd Fazza International Para-Archery Tournament, a silver medal at the 2019 5th Fazza Para Archery World Ranking Tournament – Para World Ranking, and he became the new world champion at the 2019 World Archery Para Championships in ’s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands.
Sarawakian Wiro Julin had suffered nerve damage on one of his ankles when he was down with a high fever at the age of seven. Since then, his ankle had been impaired, though that did not deter him from winning a silver medal for Compound Men Open at the Asian continental qualification tournament for Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Abdul Latif Romly
Abdul Latif Romly, also from Perlis, is affected by an intellectual impairment that was identified while he was in pre-school. In spite of that, he has won several gold medals for Men’s Long Jump F20 to this day, beginning with the 2014 Asian Para Games, the 2015 ASEAN Para Games, the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships and the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships, and even the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games during which he broke the world record three times, the same world record which he himself set during the 2015 ASEAN Para Games! Despite sustaining an injury, he was able to defend his Men’s Long Jump T20 gold medal on 4 September.
Mohamad Ridzuan Mohamad Puzi
Cerebral palsy is a debilitating disorder that impairs the movements of those it affects, but this did not hinder Mohamad Ridzuan a.k.a. Mr Dash from taking part in athletics. Mohamad Ridzuan from Perlis was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of 1, but by the age of 27, he had won his first gold medal at the 2014 Asian Para Games in Incheon, Korea for Men’s Long Jump T36/37/38 as well as two silver medals for Men’s 100 metres T36 and Men’s 200 metres T36. At the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, he won a gold medal for Men’s 100 metres T36. He also won the gold medal for Men’s 100 metres T36 at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. At the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships in London, however, he won silver for Men’s 100 metres T36. He won three gold medals at the 2018 Asian Para Games in Jakarta, Indonesia for Men’s 100 metres T36, Men’s 400 metres T36, and Men’s Long Jump T36, living up to his nickname.
Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli
Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli, who was born in Selangor, had also been identified since pre-school as having been affected by intellectual impairment. Prior to joining the National Sports Council, he was but a humble hawker selling kuey teow in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman—and he’s a very good cook too, according to his father! His big break in sports came when he won the bronze medal for Men’s Shot Put F20 at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Since then, he has won a gold medal for this category at the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships, the 2014 and 2018 Asian Para Games, the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, and the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships. At the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, he has broken the world record twice, but he was disqualified due to a technicality, and the appeal against the disqualification has been rejected.
Wong Kar Gee
At the age of 8, Jonathan Wong Kar Gee from Sabah was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a disorder that degenerates his retina, causing him to eventually become blind. In spite of several treatments around the world—from China to the United States, to London, as well as Germany—in a bid by his parents to rescue his failing vision, none of the treatments could work, and Jonathan has decided that he would live with the condition and that his parents should stop with their efforts. He has since gone on to win silver medals for Men’s Long Jump T12 at the 2018 Asian Para Games and the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships.
Did you know that music is one of Jonathan’s hobbies? Check out this music video featuring a song that he composed!
Siti Noor Iasah Mohamad Ariffin
“I used to distance myself from my classmates back in primary school. I had issues in memorising lessons and they bullied me. That was why I always chose to sit at the back. I always thought, ‘What will my future be like?’ After winning medals, I discovered I actually could achieve something.”
Siti Noor Iasah’s intellectual impairment was identified while she was still in pre-school. Despite that, she took up running in 1999 after one of her teachers took notice of her talent and recommended her to the National Sport Council centre. She was named Para Sportswoman of the Year in 2014 and 2018, and she won the gold medal for Women’s 400 T20 metres at the 2018 Asian Para Games. She has decided to retire as an athlete after the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games to focus on her son and her family.
Cheah Liek Hou
Cheah Liek Hou was born with Erb’s palsy which caused him to not be able to lift his right arm above his shoulders. However, he grew up with a passion for badminton since he was 9, and his mother had encouraged him to be a professional badminton player. Since then, he has gone on to win the BWF (Badminton World Federation) Para-Badminton World Championships six times: 2005, 2007, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017. Para-badminton was first introduced to the Paralympics for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, so on 4 September 2021, when Cheah Liek Hou won a gold medal for the Men’s Singles SU5 category, he also became the first-ever Paralympic champion for para-badminton!
Watch this documentary made by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and Japanese broadcasting station WOWOW to know more about Cheah Liek Hou.
46-year-old Didin Taresoh is known as Sabah’s top Para Shuttler. Although afflicted with dwarfism, he is a mathematics teacher, and he was the Men’s Singles SS6 world champion at the 2015 BWF Para-Badminton Championship. He has also won silver for Men’s Singles SS6 at the 2018 Asian Para Games. He has planned to retire after competing at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, citing his age as he would be close to 50 by 2024, while he is older than all the other players at the 2020 Paralympic Games by at least 10 years.
Chew Wei Lun
Malaysia’s boccia representative from Johor, Chew Wei Lun, had an uneasy upbringing; he was abandoned by his mother when he was 4, so he was left in the care of his grandfather, but by the age of 9 he was sent to a home for people with impairments where he grew up in a tough environment. He was introduced to the sport by a teacher at school, and he has stuck to the sport since he was 19. He finished in second place in the BC1 category of the BISFed 2019 Hong Kong Boccia World Open. On 1 September 2021, he took home a silver medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Mohamad Yusof Hafizi Shaharuddin
Mohamad Yusof Hafizi Shaharuddin was born in Perak with a muscle impairment, but that didn’t stop him from winning silver medals at the 2018 Asian Para Games for Men’s Kilometre Track Cycling C1–2–3 and Men’s 750 metre Team Sprint C1–5. He also won a bronze medal at the 2020 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships for Men’s Scratch Race C1.
Muhammad Hafiz Jamali
Muhammad Hafiz Jamali from Kuala Lumpur had his left arm amputated as the result of a motorcycle accident in 2009. After the life-changing accident, he switched hobbies to cycling. He was first invited to join the 2017 ASEAN Para Games, where he won a silver medal for Men’s Kilometre Cycling C4.
Zuhairie Ahmad Tarmizi
Zuhairie Ahmad Tarmizi used to be a football player prior to losing his right hand in a 2012 freak accident that occurred while he was helping at his family stall in his hometown of Marang, Terengganu. He never thought about cycling until the Malaysian Sports Council offered him that chance in 2014. He won a gold medal for Men’s Road Race C5 at the 2018 Asian Para Games, as well as a silver medal for Team 750 metres Sprint C1–5. This made him the first Malaysian male cyclist to win a gold medal at the Asian Para Games. For that achievement, Zuhairie was named Male Para Athlete of the Year at the 2018 Terengganu Sports Awards.
Nur Azlia Syafinaz Mohd Zais & Nurul Suhada Zainal (Pilot)
Nur Azlia Syafinaz Mohd Zais from Kedah was born with a vision impairment. To the surprise of many, she only began her training in para-cycling just three months before the 2017 ASEAN Para Games which she would be taking part in; not only that, but prior to switching to para-cycling, she was a track and field athlete. Her three-month training was not in vain, however, as she went on to win four gold medals and one silver medal! She went on to win three gold medals and a silver medal at the 2018 Asian Para Games too. You might be wondering how a blind person is able to take part in cycling competitions, and that’s where Nurul Suhada Zainal comes in. Nurul Suhada is able-bodied, so her role is to act as the pilot for Nur Azlina Syafinaz. Nurul Suhada herself was a champion for the 2015 Malaysian National Championships.
Bonnie Bunyau Gustin
By now, everybody in Malaysia would have known the name of Sarawakian Bonnie Bunyau Gustin, who has won the gold medal for Men’s 72 kg Powerlifting during which he broke the Paralympic record for his category by lifting 228 kg in spite of his short stature, standing tall at 132 cm. Several months prior, Bonnie even broke the world record for the men’s over-72 kg category at the 11th Fazza Dubai 2021 Para Powerlifting World Cup by lifting 230 kg! Even prior to that, he placed first at the Bangkok 2021 Para Powerlifting World Cup back in May where he lifted 226 kg. Thanks to Bonnie, the Malaysian national anthem, Negaraku, was finally heard for the first time in Tokyo since the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Jong Yee Khie
Jong Yee Khie, also from Sarawak, was involved in a motorcycle accident in 2005, which resulted in the amputation of his right leg above the knee. Three years later, he took up powerlifting at the encouragement of his family. He won the bronze medal for Men’s +72 kg Powerlifting at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. He won the gold medal at the 2015 and 2017 ASEAN Para Games for Men’s 97 kg Powerlifting. He won the silver medal for Men’s Heavyweight Powerlifting at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, and another silver medal at the 11th Fazza Dubai 2021 Para Powerlifting World Cup for the Men’s above 107 kg category. At the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, he won a silver medal for Men’s 107 kg Powerlifting by lifting 237 kg.
Jamery Siga from Sarawak has a shrunken right arm because he was stricken by polio when he was only 5 years old. He has represented Malaysia in numerous events since 2010. At the 2017 ASEAN Para Games, he won a gold medal for Men’s 50 metres Butterfly Swimming S5, a silver medal for Men’s 200 metres Freestyle Swimming S5, and a bronze medal for Men’s 100 metres Backstroke Swimming S5.
Muhammad Nur Syaiful Zulkafli
Muhammad Nur Syaiful Zulkifli, also from Sarawak, suffered impairment to his legs due to a 2012 motorcycle accident. He took up para-swimming in 2015, which lifted his spirits out of despair. At that time, he was not even aware that tournaments for people with impairments had existed, until a friend of his asked if he would like to compete in para-swimming. Since then, he has trained hard, and he won the gold medal for Men’s 50 metres Freestyle Swimming S5 at the 2018 Asian Para Games, in addition to two silver medals for Men’s 100 metres Freestyle Swimming S5 and Men’s 200 metres Freestyle Swimming S5 respectively.
Brenda Anellia Larry
Brenda Anellia Larry was born without both arms, but that did not stop her from taking up para-swimming in 2017 when she was 12 years old. The 16-year-old Sabahan used to be afraid of water when she was younger, but thanks to the encouragement by her family and teachers to try swimming, she has discovered that out of all the different sports that she loves, para-swimming was the only one that she could master. On 27 August, she managed to set a new Asian record at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games for Women’s 50 metres Butterfly S5. However, that was not sufficient for her to qualify for the finals.
Chee Chaoming from Kuala Lumpur was born with shorter fingers, but he didn’t let that stop him from taking up table tennis to prove that he can lead a normal life and achieve something. Looking at him now, one could never guess that at one point in his life he weighed about 100 kg, and that was when he was only 13 years old! Chee Chaoming won his first gold medal at the 2018 Asian Para Games together with Ting Ing Hock for Men’s Doubles Table Tennis TT 8–9. At the 2019 Copa Tango, Chee Chaoming made his debut and won the gold medal for the Men’s Singles Class 6–10 competition.
Abu Samah Borhan
Abu Samah Borhan, also from Kuala Lumpur, was paralysed from the waist down due to a 2006 road accident that resulted in irreparable spinal cord injury. However, in spite of a lack of knowledge about tennis, he decided to take up wheelchair tennis in 2009 at the encouragement of his wife, Norisah Bahrom, who is 10 years older than him and has been wheelchair-bound for longer than he has. He won a gold medal at the 2017 ASEAN Para Games for Men’s Singles Wheelchair Tennis, as well as a silver medal for Men’s Doubles Wheelchair Tennis together with Ariffahmi Zaquan Ariffin. He is also the winner of the 2020 Eureka Cup Taiwan Open.
And that is our list. These are the top parathletes of Malaysia representing the country at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. FlyKLIA would like to congratulate all our parathletes on their performances at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, and we hope that they will continue to serve as excellent examples for all Malaysians.
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