Malaysian Paralympians at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics recently concluded with Malaysia bringing home two hard-earned medals. Next up is the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, with another 22 Malaysians athletes set to show off their dedication and perseverance in nine sporting events. Here are 10 Malaysian Paralympians to look out for once the 2020 Paralympics kicks off in Tokyo, Japan on 24th August 2021.

1. Suresh Selvathamby – Archery

2020 Malaysian Paralympians - Suresh Selvathamby
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Suresh Selvathamby is a Malaysia archer who has been garnering attention ever since he was crowned champion at the 2019 World Archery Para Championships in the Netherlands. His win carved out a major moment in Malaysia’s para archery history, as he was the first Malaysian to win a gold medal in the tournament. This is a notable feat next to the bronze medal won by the late national archer Muhammad Salam Sidik in the same championships back in 2011. 

Born in the small town of Kuala Ketil in Kedah, the 27-year-old archer overcame several hardships in life before claiming the world champion title. After surviving a lorry accident at 13 years old, he had to depend on the use of a prosthetic leg. He worked hard while juggling his archery training to support his mother and younger brother too, rising above criticisms of others who called him “useless” to his family due to his dreams of becoming an archer. 

Nonetheless, the world champion title has secured him a spot to compete in the prestigious Paralympics in the men’s individual recurve W3 (standing amputee). He aims to win a medal in the event too, so he can dedicate it to his newborn son, whom he has yet to meet in person due to various quarantines and training bubble SOPs. 

2. Mohamad Ridzuan Mohamad Puzi – Athletics

2020 Malaysian Paralympians - Muhammad Ridzuan Puzi
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Mohamad Ridzuan Mohamad Puzi became a household name after winning Malaysia’s first Paralympic gold medal in the Men’s 100m sprint T36 (cerebral palsy) at the Rio 2016 Paralympics. He’s looking to defend the title in the same event at the upcoming Paralympics.

The Perlis-born athlete was diagnosed with jaundice at the age of six, which led to a cerebral palsy condition. Despite the hardships faced when he was younger, he was described as a cheerful and active child, who was scouted by his first coach Affizam Amdan in 2003 due to his passion for sports. His talents were later noticed by his current coach R Jaganathan too, who was determined to train him after coming across the talented athlete working at a burger and nasi lemak food stall.

Fast forward to 2011, and Ridzuan Puzi managed to bag a gold medal during his international debut at the 2011 ASEAN Para Games. He went on to win multiple gold medals at the 2014 and 2018 Asian Para Games, and was crowned champion at the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships and Rio 2016 Paralympics.

3. Cheah Liek Hou – Badminton

2020 Malaysian Paralympians - Cheah Liek Hou
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Badminton is making its much-anticipated debut at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. Representing Malaysia in this new Paralympic event is Cheah Liek Hou, an accomplished badminton shuttler who hopes to win Malaysia’s first gold medal in badminton.

Cheh is currently ranked number 2 in the Badminton World Federation’s men’s single SU5 (standing and upper limb impairment) list – an impressive feat for the badminton player. He is also famously known as a six-time gold medalist in the men’s single SU5 category at the Para Badminton World Championships too.

The 33-year-old shuttler, who was born with a paralysed left shoulder, began playing badminton when he was nine years old. It didn’t take him long to turn the hobby into a professional career, as he showed great interest in the sport even at a young age. He started off his career by playing in able-bodied and para badminton, but made the switch to the latter to be able to train and complete his Business Administration degree at Universiti Putra Malaysia.

4. Siti Noor Iasah Mohamad Ariffin – Athletics

2020 Malaysian Paralympians - Siti Noor Iasah
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The 2020 Paralympics will be Siti Noor Iasah’s second Paralympics. She made her debut at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, where she finished fourth in the women’s 400m T20 (learning disabilities) and women’s long jump T20.

She didn’t back down after she just barely missed out on two bronze medals, and made a return two years later to bag the gold medal at the 2018 Asian Para Games in the women’s 400m T20 final. Not only was she one of two athletes who scored Malaysia’s first gold medals in the tournament, she was also the first Malaysian woman para athlete to win a gold medal.

At the upcoming Paralympics, she will be the only athlete competing in the women’s para athletics event.

5. Muhammad Nur Syaiful Zulkafli – Swimming

2020 Malaysian Paralympians - Muhammad Nur Syaiful Zulkafli
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Swimming has always been a sporting event that Malaysian athletes shine in. Muhammad Nur Syaiful Zulkafli, a para swimmer from Sarawak, is yet another face to look out for as he is making his debut at the 2020 Paralympics.

Nur Syaiful started swimming as a form of rehabilitation following a motorcycle accident in 2012 that left him with severe injuries to his spinal cord, which affected the use of his legs. He later picked up the sport seriously, despite having to use a wheelchair, due to his interest in the sport – something that he had even prior to the accident.

The 26-year-old has since won the gold medal in the men’s 50m freestyle S5 (physical impairment), and two silver medals in men’s 100m freestyle S5 and men’s 200m freestyle S5 events, all at the 2018 Asian Para Games. During the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships in London, he also managed to set a new Asian Record during the men’s 50m freestyle (S5) heat one, while placing third in the finals. 

Nur Syaiful will be competing in four swimming events at the 2020 Paralympics, with hopes to win a medal in the men’s 50m freestyle event.

6. Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli Othman – Athletics

2020 Malaysian Paralympians - Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli Othman
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Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli is another well-known Malaysian athlete, having delivered two Paralympic medals in shot put T20 (learning disabilities) event. This includes a hard-earned bronze medal at the London 2012 Paralympics, and an impressive gold medal win at the Rio 2016 Paralympics. 

Nicknamed the “The Smiling Giant”, Ziyad had humble beginnings, as he was once known to run a char kuey teow food stall in KL before winning Malaysia’s second gold medal at the Paralympics. 

The three-time Paralympian from Selangor is now looking to earn another Paralympic medal, and beating his personal record at the upcoming Paralympics. This means breaking a world record that he set during the 2017 World Para Athletics Championship in London – which surpassed a previous world record of 16.84m that was also set by him during the 2016 Paralympics. 

7. Bonnie Bunyau Gustin – Powerlifting

2020 Malaysian Paralympians - Bonnie Bunyau Gustin
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Following closely in his father’s footsteps is Malaysian athlete Bonnie Bunyau Gustin, from Kuching, Sarawak. The 20-year-old powerlifter has been training hard under the tutelage of his father, a former para powerlifter, since he was young. He now hopes to become a Paralympic champion and make his father proud.

Before qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, Gustin was crowned champion at the 2019 Para Powerlifting World Cup in the men’s 65kg category. At the 2021 Para Powerlifting World Cup, where he competed in the over-72kg category, the promising powerlifter won yet another gold in the category and broke a powerlifting world record while he was at it too. His stunning performance earned him national recognition, with the Agong even coming out to congratulate him.

8. Abdul Latif Romly – Athletics

2020 Malaysian Paralympians - Abdul Latif Romly
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Another athlete who made history at the Rio 2016 Paralympics is Abdul Latif Romly. The Perlis-born athlete took to the podium to bag Malaysia’s third gold Paralympics medal in the men’s long jump T20 (learning disabilities) – a first for the country. There’s no stopping the young and determined gold medalist, who now aims to win yet another gold for the country and break a world record at his second Paralympics.

This means beating the long jump T20 world record that he set at the 2016 Paralympics, after leaping to an impressive 7.60m and winning the coveted Paralympic gold medal. He’ll also have to beat two world records that he broke, prior to this third world record set, which he managed to accomplish at the same Paralympics on the same day.

9. Brenda Anellia Larry – Swimming

2020 Malaysian Paralympians - Brenda Anellia Larry
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FINIS Swimming Malaysia

Although she’s only 16 years old, Brenda Anellia Larry, from Sabah, is already setting records for the country. At the 2020 Paralympics, she will be the first Malaysian woman para swimmer to compete in the Paralympics.

The young athlete will be competing in the women’s 50m backstroke and 50m butterfly S4 events. She earned a spot at the Paralympics after finishing seventh in the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships in London, where she made her international debut. 

Born without arms, Brenda only started swimming in 2017. She was initially afraid of the water sport, but learnt to love it following the encouragement of her parents and coaches. After just two months, she began swimming on her own, and was able to swim 1,000m at a time without any help. At 12 years old, she was spending four days a week training, while studying for her Primary School Achievement Test (UPSR) and dreaming to compete in the Paralympics. 

10. Zuhairie Ahmad Tarmizi – Track Cycling

2020 Malaysian Paralympians - Zuhairie Ahmad Tarmizi
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Majlis Sukan Negara Malaysia

Malaysia recently brought home a silver medal in track cycling at the 2020 Olympics. Hoping to continue the winning streak for the country in the sporting event is Zuhairie Ahmad Tarmizi, a track cyclist. The Terengganu-born athlete comes hot off the tracks of a big win, delivering Malaysia’s first-ever gold medal at the 2018 ASEAN Para Games. 

But it hadn’t always been his intention to become a track cyclist and win medals for the country under this discipline. Zuhairie started off as a football player when he was younger, but made the unexpected switch to cycling after a tragic accident with a sugarcane machine left him with part of his right hand gone. 

Nonetheless, his determination and skills for his newfound sport is something that many can look forward to seeing at the 2020 Paralympics. It will see a dream come true for the athlete too, to qualify for the Paralympics.

Malaysian Paralympians at the 2020 Paralympics

Malaysia has been competing in the Paralympics since 1972, with courageous and determined para athletes coming out to represent the country ever since. At this year’s Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, we have another set of 22 skillful Paralympians proudly making up Team Malaysia, which we look forward to cheering on and supporting.

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Cover image adapted from:, @ziyadzolkefli, and @cheahliekhou4956

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