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Why Abdul Latif Romly was named National Sportsman of the Year

It was April 17, 2017.

The selection committee for the National Sports Awards met at Casa 1, National Sports Council.

Among those in the committee were NST sports editor Vijesh Rai, The Star deputy sports editor Eric Samuel and Sportswriters Association of Malaysia secretary Faisal Jamal.

I was privileged to be part of the committee for the second time (first being last year) and thankful to be part of a team that created history on April 26, 2017.

It was decided, with the consensus of all present, that we send a message by naming Abdul Latif Romly as National Sportsman of the Year.

He deserves it, having smashed the world record three times in the long jump (T20) event at the Rio Paralympics on Sept 11, 2016.

There were questions raised if he was better than the other contenders.

But there were those who argued how can one compare a cyclist and a shuttler?

The awards ceremony is not just about recognising our heroes but a perfect platform to send a message to the masses.

And the committee and organisers did so by saying our para athletes and able- bodied athletes are equal.

Others from the fraternity who were given recognition were para athletics Coach R. Jaganathan (Coach of the Year) and Tun Jeanne Abdullah (joint winner with Tunku Imran Ja'afar as Sports Figures of the Year).

And what made it more memorable is that the awards ceremony was the first event graced by Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V after his coronation on Monday.

As Abdul Latif told Malay Mail: "No one knew me before Rio Games. Today everyone knows me. This award will inspire other paralympians and show the world we are at par with able-bodied athletes."

 I'm glad I was part of the committee on April 17.


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