DESPITE Malaysia’s worrying dearth of talent in athletics, the sport is still very much alive and kicking as far as the Paralympics world is concerned.
While young track and field athletes continue to struggle in making a breakthrough at international level for the country, the same cannot be said of their Paralympic counterparts.
A lot of budding talents have emerged in recent years, as witnessed by shot putter Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli’s success of becoming a world champion at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France this year.
One such talent is Nurul Fazirai Mat Hussin.
Set to be the country’s main bet at the Asian Youth Paralympic Games (AYPG) 2013 in Kuala Lumpur following her 200m gold medal winning exploits at the 2009 Games in Tokyo, the 19-year-old from Pasir Mas, Kelantan is aiming to go one better this time around, as she prepares to bid her farewell to youth level competitions.
“This will be my last AYPG as I won’t be eligible to compete in the next Games due to my age.
“I want to keep the 200m gold medal and go for the 100m gold as well. I wish to make this last chance count and go out with a bang.
“The next aim is to qualify for the ASEAN Para Games early next year in Myanmar. I got through the first selection phase and I’ll be attending the second one next month. My ultimate dream is to represent the country at senior level,” roared Nurul, who also contributed a silver medal in 100m in Tokyo.
Nurul, who will be competing in three events – 100m, 200m and 400m – of the T46 category (arm amputees) at AYPG 2013, recalls Tokyo 2009 with pride.
“That remains my best achievement to date. To go there and beat the Japanese athletes in their own backyard was a beautiful feeling. It was a proud moment for me,” reminisced Nurul.
“All I my life, I’ve had people look down on me because I’m an OKU (Orang Kurang Upaya). It actually spurred me on to prove them I can do something they can’t, which is to make my country proud. I’ve literally shed blood and tears, pushing myself in training to make that a reality.”
Born without a left forearm, the tag OKU does not go down well with Nurul.
“To be honest, I’m not very fond of that term. I’m sure people who call us ‘OKU’ have no bad intentions but to be labelled as such, and I can safely say I’m speaking for my fellow athletes, makes us feel as if we’re singled out for our disabilities. Personally, I find it insulting. We’re normal people,” stressed Nurul.
Her sentiments were echoed by teammate Abdul Rahman Abdullah, who is slated to participate in the 100, 200 and 400 meters of the T36 category (celebral palsy).
“I’ve had ridiculous amount of insults thrown at me. But some people’s attitude changed towards me after I started achieving in sports. Now, I think I get the respect I deserve. But yes, to be called ‘OKU’ feels like a polite rejection from the society,” agreed KL-born Rahman.
One of the five core sports to be contested at the last Games, athletics will see a bigger participation this year at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil, the official venue for track and field.
With more than 40 male and female athletes representing them, Malaysia stands a good chance of improving on their previous record in Tokyo.
The Asian Youth Para Games is a multi-sport event held every four years for youth athletes with physical disabilities. The first Games was held in 2003 in Hong Kong and after a six-year lapse, the second edition was hosted by Japan’s capital city Tokyo in 2009.
This year’s edition in Kuala Lumpur carries the slogan “Where Passion Grows, Dreams Fulfilled, Friendships Strengthened”, and fittingly, will see some 1200 athletes and officials from 30 nations competing in more than 600 events/disciplines.
KFC Malaysia is the Games Sports Partner while lading car distributor Edaran Tan Chong Motors Sdn Bhd, oil and gas giants PETRONAS, Eau Claire and MIKASA are among the official sponsors of the Games, which is sanctioned by the Asian Paralympic Committee (APC) and supported by the Malaysian Ministry of Youth and Sports.