The Paralympic miracles

Abdul Latif Romlyby Lim Sue Goan

Due to their physical disabilities, it is far more difficult for disabled individuals to excel in sports compared with normal healthy people. As a result, the achievements of the three gold medalists in the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, should be fully recognised by us all.

According to Wikipedia, the Paralympics began after World War II in a bid to mitigate the impact of physical disabilities on military personnel as well as civilians across the world, providing them with physical training in the hope of helping them regain their confidence and physical state.

In 1948, Dr Ludwig Guttmann organised an athletic day for disabled athletes that coincided with the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, marking the dawn of the Paralympics.

Through Paralympics and other sporting events for disabled athletes, these people could once again prove their own worth and gain back their lost self confidence while inspiring other disabled individuals.

Meanwhile, such sports meets have also been able to allow the public to care for the disabled and help them blend into the larger society.

According to the WHO, some 10 per cent of the global population or 650 million people are physically challenged.

Collectively, they form the largest minority group of this world. Their sheer numbers will only grow following the overall increase in the world population, improvement in medical facilities and the increasingly visible ageing phenomenon.

Among countries with life expectancy in excess of 70 years, on average a person spends about eight years or 11.5 per cent of his or her lifetime with some form of disability.

As a consequence, we must never discriminate against these people, as we ourselves may become like them one day when we age or become ill, more so when the number has become so substantial.

Instead, we must provide more disabled-friendly facilities, convenience and space for them so that they too can contribute positively towards the country’s well-being and prosperity.

Powerful resolution

Mohamad Ridzuan Mohamad Puzi, Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli and Abdul Latif Romly all have their inspiring stories to tell.

Suffering from polio since young, Ridzuan had to train for six hours a day while Ziyad, suffering from intellectual disability, could only pick up a skill through prolonged practice.

Abdul Latif, in the meantime, also faces problem learning new things but given his exceptional talent in sports, he has thrice created new world records in Rio.

Without a powerful resolution, there is no chance these people could ever create history.

Their success has also reflected the mutual support among Malaysians irrespective of race.

For instance, a kind-hearted Chinese man offered Ridzuan a new pair of jogging shoes as a gift, and encouraged him to win every race with them. The jogging shoes were not even expensive in monetary terms, but the most treasured value came from the generosity of a man who has since given Ridzuan some warmth and a boost to his confidence.

In a similar manner, Ziyad’s father Zolkefli is very grateful to his son’s Indian female teacher and a Chinese counselor Saw Boon Seng, without whose dedication Ziyad would not have made it this far today.

These three gold medalists have now become the talk of the town with well wishers from Malaysians of all ethnicities pouring in, a glorious moment in the nation’s history indeed.

Their accomplishments have proven one thing that Malaysians are not that inferior in sports after all and we are good enough to compete with the best from any country in this world.

Unfortunately, our achievements have oftentimes been capped by our external environment, government policies and training mechanisms. Once our young people are able to break free from such restrictions, their potential will be fully unleashed.

We cannot solely count on the government for the country’s future. Given the fact that national politics is now in a disarray with politicians all busy with their own designs rather than the well-being of the nation, the rakyat will have to maximise their own potential in order to infinitely expand their realms of survival.

We not only need to have the determination to pursue the goals of “Faster, Higher, Stronger” in the sporting field, we must also be equipped with creativity, innovation and superior R&D capabilities, along with a proactive attitude and positive values as we strive to excel in every aspect in life and prove our long-chanted slogan “Malaysia Boleh”.

The miracles we have created at the Paralympics in Rio should serve as a powerful force that will lift us upward. It is hoped that such a positive force will stem the country’s rising suicide rate as we face the uncertain future with new-found courage.

Lim Sue Goan writes for Sin Chew Daily.

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