PHNOM PENH – Syabas Malaysia! (Great job Malaysia!)
Malaysian sports fans can heave a sigh of relief as the quality of the country’s sports was once again raised by the success of the national contingent to the 12th ASEAN Para Games (APG), which took place here from June 3 until yesterday.
Made up of a total of 144 athletes, with 62 of them making their debut on the prestigious stage, it did not stop them from taking home 50 gold, 38 silver and 34 bronze medals, to finish fourth in the medal standings.
The great thing was that the gold medal collection surpassed the target set by the Paralympic Council of Malaysia, which was 33 gold medals after three national champions did not participate in the biennial Games.
The three champions in question are Paralympic Games gold medallists Datuk Mohd Latif Romly (long jump), Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli (shot put) and badminton ace Cheah Liek Hou.
The Paralympic Games is the most prestigious international sports event involving athletes with various disabilities.
In fact, the courage to risk new and old faces, which was described as a solid combination, paid off when the 33rd gold came as early as the fourth day of the competition (June 6) through the first-ever pairing of Chee Chaoming-Brady Chin in the men’s table tennis doubles event (Class 9- mild balance problems).
The excellent run continued the next day when the contingent led by chef de mission to APG 2023, Noor Syahieda Mat Shah, erased the record of 36 gold, 20 silver and 14 bronze achieved in Solo, Indonesia in the previous edition.
These ‘extraordinary’ athletes proved that the slogan ‘Demi Malaysia’ (‘For Malaysia’) were not empty words but born from the bottom of the heart and expressed with a dedicated struggle to ensure that Malaysia can stand proud on the Southeast Asian stage.
The swimming squad targeted for 17 gold, 11 silver and 17 bronze, once again turned the pool into a goldmine, delivering 26 gold, 12 silver and 10 bronze.
Abd Halim Mohammad was the biggest contributor of medals when he won 5 gold and 1 bronze. Not only that, he broke three records, the 200 metres (m) individual medley, 50m freestyle and 50m breaststroke for the S8 (physical disability) category, and at the same time emerged as the best Malaysian athletes at this Games.
When contacted by Bernama, Abd Halim said he did not expect to do that well as his mission this time was to defend two titles (100m breaststroke and 50m breaststroke) that he won in Solo.
“Alhamdulillah, I feel relieved and grateful to end the competition with a big win. It was like taking revenge when at the last Malaysian Para Games I was nominated for best athlete but did not win.
“….maybe it was not my turn then but it materialised in Cambodia. I believe that what I got today is thanks to the teachings of coach Eva Wong who tirelessly taught me,” he said.
The athletics team were no less great when they brought home 14 gold, 15 silver and 10 bronze, while badminton (3-1-6); powerlifting (2-6-2), table tennis (2-3-1); judo (1-0-1); boccia (1-0-1) and cerebral palsy soccer (1-0-0).
Meanwhile, the blind football squads won one silver medal, the wheelchair basketball teams (two bronze); goalball (a bronze) while chess did not contribute any medals.
Noor Syahieda said the success in Cambodia is a positive sign that the country does not lack talented athletes who are able to compete on the international stage more so with the Asian Para Games 2022 coming up next in Hangzhou, China this October.
“It is true that there were some obstacles at first, but we were ready to overcome them. To me, the result achieved today shows the fighting spirit of the athletes who always want to give back to Malaysia.
“When we reached 33 gold medals it was great in itself so on the last day (yesterday) reaching 50 (gold medals) really showed the ability of our athletes,” she said.
Indonesia retained the title of overall champions in the medal standings by grabbing 159 gold, 148 silver and 94 bronze medals, thus holding the title for the fourth time after Solo 2022, Myanmar 2013 and Kuala Lumpur 2017.
Thailand were runners-up with 126-110-92 followed by Vietnam (66-58-77) in third place. – Bernama