After the eventful Tokyo Olympics, Malaysians were thrilled to embrace the 2 medals our athletes had brought home during the gruelling tournaments: 1 silver, 1 bronze.
Proud of our champions, we were even more excited to see how our Malaysian athletes would do in the Paralympics.
So far, Malaysia has brought home 1 gold and 1 silver medal and things were definitely looking up.
When Ziyad Zolkefli managed to win the gold medal in men’s shot putt F20 competition and even break the world-record, Malaysians rejoiced in what seemed like an incredible feat, not only for our athletes but for the country as a whole.
It happened on Merdeka Day and to us, it was his gift to Malaysia.
However, that celebration was short-lived when it was announced that Ziyad was disqualified.
Later on, it was revealed that Ziyad had been disqualified after a protest was launched by the Ukraine team stating that he was late to enter the roll call area.
The call room is the commencement of the athletes’ competition. There, the athletes must gather before being escorted at all times by technical officials until they complete their event.
— #Tokyo2020 (@Tokyo2020) August 31, 2021
When Tokyo 2020 announced on their Twitter account that Ukrainian Maksym Koval had won the Gold instead of our Selangor-born champion, Malaysians were quick to flood the comments.
Here are a few of their laments…
Naturally, the next step would be to appeal the disqualification and sadly, that appeal has been rejected. The World Para Athletics (WPA) released the statement saying,
“The three athletes from Australia, Ecuador and Malaysia who competed in the men’s shot put F20 final under protest had their appeal rejected by the World Para Athletics Jury of Appeal.
“The decision was based on World Para Athletics Rule 5.5 – ‘Failure to Report to the Call Room’ which states that in case athletes are not present in the Call Room at the relevant time as published in the Call Room schedule they will be shown in the results as DNS (Did Not Start).”
Many Malaysians questioned why Ziyad was allowed to compete if he was just going to be disqualified after winning. The reasoning for this, as given by WPA, is that the referees were still deliberating and considering all evidence.
After they had looked at everything, they decided to disqualify him.
The athlete who won the gold has now issued an apology due to the onslaught of hate he received from Malaysians. It is an important reminder to not blame individuals for the decisions made by the organisations they belong to.
Maksym Koval is human too and his win after years of training and practice should not be something he feels guilty about just because we feel wronged.
It’s a somber beginning to a new month for all Malaysians after such an explosive Merdeka Day.
However, reluctantly accepting the results, many are saying that while the world would not acknowledge Ziyad’s achievement, Malaysians will always remember.
Ziyad may not have won gold, but he still broke the world-record and that is something they can’t take away from us.