This Malaysian shot putter was cruelly disqualified for turning up late to his event, despite winning gold and breaking a world record.
The International Paralympic Committee has defended its decision to disqualify a Malaysian shot putter for turning up late, leading to him being stripped of a gold medal, as anger erupted in his homeland.
Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli was allowed to compete in the F20 final in Tokyo on Tuesday despite being late, and went on to win a gold medal with a throw of 17.34 meters, breaking his own world record.
But he was later disqualified, along with Australian Todd Hodgetts and Ecuador’s Jordi Patricio Congo Villalba, by officials who determined they had no good reason for their late arrival at the call room.
The gold went instead to Ukraine’s Maksym Koval, with fellow countryman Oleksandr Yarovyi winning the silver.
According to a report by Malaysian media outlet The Star, it was the Ukrainian team that lodged the official complaint against Ziyad.
International Paralympic Committee spokesman Craig Spence said a referee determined there was “no justifiable reason” for Ziyad turning up late, and an appeal was subsequently rejected.
Despite this, Spence said Ukrainian athlete Koval was unfairly “getting a lot of abuse from Malaysians”.
“People say the Ukrainian stole the gold. No, absolutely not. The Ukrainian had nothing to do with it. It was the athletes that were late,” Spence said.
“There’s been a massive outpouring of emotion of many Malaysians on social media. Very abusive. Ridiculous, in my view.”
Spence said the latecomers argued they had not heard the announcement to gather or that it was in a language they did not understand, but he noted the other athletes had managed to get there on time.
The F20 category in shot put is for athletes with intellectual disabilities. But on social media, critics showed no sign of accepting the disqualification of Ziyad, who won gold at the Rio Paralympics in 2016, with Malaysia’s Science Minister Khairy Jamaluddin condemning the “shameful decision”.
“An absolute disgrace that goes against the spirit of the Paralympics,” he tweeted. “Mean spirited and petty. A stolen gold medal and world record.”
Malaysian king Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah also urged “the relevant authorities to study the reasons for the disqualification … so that it will not be repeated in the future”, according to a palace statement.
The widely revered monarch was “proud of (Ziyad’s) achievements and performance”, the statement added.
Ziyad himself posted just a short message on Instagram apologising and thanking Malaysians for their support.
“I apologise to all Malaysians, thank you for supporting me,” he wrote.
“I will rise again. Thank you for your words of encouragement.”
Last month, Malaysian cycling fans blasted Australia’s Matthew Glaetzer on social media after his blunder in the men’s keirin final robbed Malaysian star Azizulhasni Awang of a shot at Olympic gold in Tokyo.
– with AFP