World and Olympic champions are not easy to come by in Malaysia. But in Ziyad Zolkefli, there is a record-setting Malaysian who walks tall in athletics and rules the shot put.
During the recent 29th SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, the 27-year-old kuey teow seller’s bronze medal win brought in more meaning than any other gold medals.
His 17.12m effort scored him a bronze behind two able-bodied Thai athletes - Promrob Juntima who took the gold with 17.42m while his compatriot Thawat Khacin (17.15m) brought home the silver.
Grinning ear to ear, Ziyad was more than pleased with the historic bronze - a medal that went into the SEA Games annals as he became the first Para athlete to compete against the able-bodied in the biennial games.
It was a remarkable feat for Ziyad who also scored gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics with a new world record of 16.84m. He rewrote that record in July this year at the World Para Athletics meet in London with a new distance of 17.29m.
Winning bronze against the able-bodied at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil last month adds another feather in his cap. He now walks tall with his achievements that makes Malaysia beam with pride.
The Selangor-born athlete will now be able to focus on his fourth Asean Para Games gold medal.
Ziyad may look unbeatable in the event but he is aware that he will have to be wary of his own compatriot Mohamed Aliff Mohamad Awi, a silver medallist at the last Singapore Para Games in 2015.
"I cannot believe I won a medal against the able bodied. It has given me confidence to win my fourth gold medal in the Asean Para games," said Ziyad who competes in F20 for intellectual disability.