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Let's be inspired by our para athletes

Dear para athletes,

I will never know what life is like in a wheelchair or to grow up in complete darkness.

I can pretend to understand but I will never know what it will feel until the day I become special, like you.

But what I, and many others, do know is that you have never used your disabilities as an excuse not to perform at the highest level.

You have all been inspirational, super heroes in so many ways. You have proven that anything is possible if you put your heart and soul into your sport to achieve your goals.

While we are still searching for the elusive Olympic gold medal, your fellow para athletes — Mohamad Ridzuan Mohamad Puzi, Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli and Abdul Latif Romly — were given a hero's welcome after bagging three Paralympics gold medals in Brazil last year.

Ridzuan after winning his race in Brazil. 
Ridzuan won the nation's first Paralympics gold medal since 1972 after winning the men's 100m T36 (cerebral palsy) race, clocking 12.07s to break the previous record of 12.25s set by Roman Pavlyk of Ukraine in Beijing in 2008.

Ziyad created a new world record in the men's shot put F20 (intellectual disability) with a throw of 16.84m while the third gold medal was won by Abdul Latif who also broke the world record in the long jump T20 (intellectual disability) category with a jump of 7.60m.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak called the winners "icons for Malaysians".

Paralympics athletes in an open-top bus parade as they make their way to KLCC on Sept 22, 2016. — NST
In recent times, you, my para athlete friends, have been given due recognition.

Winners at the Rio Paralympics received RM1 million each in cash and life-time pensions - at par with athletes who compete in the Olympics.

DRB-Hicom sponsored umrah for our gold medal winners and bronze medalist Siti Noor Radiah Ismail (T20 women's long jump). Other corporate companies jumped on the bandwagon too.

Abdul Latif was named 2016 National Sportsman of the Year — the nation's first para athlete to win the prestigious award.

Abdul Latif and National Sportswoman silat exponent Siti Rahmah Mohamed Nasir.


Thanks to your exploits, some of you have become household names — and one of you was even featured in an advertisement!

My tweet about Ziyad appearing in a Dairy Champ advertisment in a newspaper in May, 2017. — @HareshDeol 
Emphasis has also been placed on grooming young para athletes through the 'Inspire Programme'.

And just last week, Ziyad and Abdul Latif created history after competing in the 29th edition of the SEA Games, with Ziyad winning the bronze medal in the shot put event.

In six days, you will compete in the 9th Para Asean Games in Kuala Lumpur.

And there are already talks of another form of recognition — welfare centres named after those of you who perform exceptionally well.

To all 326 Malaysian athletes participating in 16 sports, I wish you all the best.

I sincerely hope your magnificent achievements will not be marred by the poor organisation we painfully witnessed during KL2017. If it happens again, we can forget hosting the Asian Games or any other multi-sports events.

Remember this my para athlete friends: It is you and only you who will ink your names in the history books as heroes of the nation.

Show the world your Heroic Display. Make every day a Happy Day.

Yours truly,

Haresh Deol


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