It’s Malaysia’s moment in Rio as pair make history

Double glory at the Olympic Stadium as athletes claim country’s first ever Paralympic gold medals. Vanessa Low also breaks long-jump world record. 10 Sep 2016
By IPC

Malaysia’s Mohamad Ridzuan Mohamad Puzi and Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli made history on Saturday (10 September), claiming their country’s first ever Paralympic gold medals.

Mohamad Puzi sprinted home to win Malaysia’s first gold medal – across all Paralympic sports – in the 100m T36, while Zolkefli followed up an hour later with victory out in the field winning the shot put F20 with a new world record to boot.

Reigning world champion Mohamad Puzi was quick out of the blocks and kept his form as he took the tape ahead of China’s Yifei Yang (12.20) and Brazilian Rodrigo Parreira da Silva (12.54), setting a new Paralympic record of 12.07 in the process.

Zolkefli, Paralympic bronze medallist four year ago, meanwhile added more than one metre on to his personal best as he threw a massive 16.84m in the fifth round at Rio’s Olympic stadium.

The mark was a remarkable 55 centimetres further than the previous world record set by Australia’s London 2012 champion Todd Hodgetts.

“I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I’ve been training hard to get here. The result is for my family, my country and for all Malaysians. This is the result of my life,” said Zolkefli.

Silver went to Greek thrower Dimitrios Senikidis with a European record of 16.17m while Hodgetts (15.82m) had to settle for bronze.

There was a world record too for Germany’s Vanessa Low in the long jump T42 – in fact the 26-year-old broke the record twice on her way to winning her first Paralympic title.

Low – who also won the world title last year with a new world record – leapt 4.88m in the second round, adding nine centimetres on to her previous best. She went on to jump a phenomenal 4.93m in the following round.

“I’m totally over the moon. It’s been some really rough years. It was a long time of training and today everything was just perfect,” said Low, who finished in sixth place in London four years ago.

She admitted she had endured a “really rough season” coming into the competition but that had all changed in Rio.

“Coming here and being inside the stadium I was just calm, focused, and at the same time really, really enjoyed it,” she said.

“My coach taught me how to believe in myself. He taught me how to be mentally strong. I know exactly what I was doing today and it gave me security. It gave me the calmness in just doing my thing.”

Italy’s world silver medallist Martina Caironi finished in second place with a personal best of 4.66m while bronze went to Cuban Malu Perez Iser with a new Americas record of 3.92m.

Gold also went Germany’s way in the men’s shot put F33 as Daniel Scheil got the better of Algeria’s defending champion Kamel Kardjena.

Scheil’s opening throw of 11.03m was enough to secure the gold just nine centimetres ahead of Kardjena (10.94m) while Saudi Arabia’s Hani Alnakhli (8.99m)won bronze.

Latvia clinched their second Para athletics gold medal of Rio 2016 thanks to Diana Dadzite who set a new F55 world record on her way to winning the women’s javelin F56.

The 30-year-old, who made her international debut two years ago, saw off a stellar field to win her first Paralympic title with a third round throw of 23.26m – adding 55 centimetres on to Martina Willing’s mark which had stood for an incredible 17 years.

“I feel amazing. That was something really incredible. First I throw so far and make a world record and then I win the gold medal,” said Dadzite.

“Yesterday I was in the last practice and I didn’t feel that I would throw so far but I think my coach, my team, everyone gave me more power and motivation. It was wonderful.”

Three-time Paralympic champion Willing clinched silver with 22.22m and Algeria’s Nadia Medjmedj (20.24m) set an African record for bronze.

Brazilian star Shirlene Coelho kept the home crowds happy with a win in the women’s javelin F37. Paralympic champion at London 2012, Coelho dominated the field as she clinched her second consecutive title with a best of 37.57m – more than seven metres clear of her opposition.

China completed the podium as Na Mi threw 30.18m for silver and Qianqian Jia managed 29.47m to take the bronze.

Out on the track Great Britain’s defending champion Hannah Cockroft (17.42) never looked in doubt as she sped away from the blocks in the women’s 100m T34, quickly pulling clear of the rest of the field.

The 24-year-old, who also takes on the 400m and 800m T34 in Rio de Janeiro but favours the shorter sprints, set a new Paralympic record as she finished ahead of fellow Briton Kare Adenegan (18.29) and the USA’s Alexa Halko (18.81).

“I can relax now, I have come here and done what I needed to do,” said Cockroft.

“The 100m is my favourite event – I have never been beaten over it and didn’t expect to be beaten over it. It was amazing to come here and compete in front of this massive crowd, it’s a magnificent stadium and I absolutely loved it out there.

“I was so nervous coming into it. I came in wanting that 100m gold – the 400m and 800m are still quite new to me, there are some strong girls in it. I’ve worked hard over the last four years so I am still going to go out there and give everything but I’ve got the gold I wanted now, and I’m proud to be taking it home.”

Kuwaiti Ahmad Almutairi (16.61) also set a new Paralympic record as he won the men’s 100 T33. It was his country’s first gold medal since the Athens Games in 2004.

With 50m to go Almutairi was well clear of the field and it proved a straightforward win for the 22-year-old reigning world champion as British Para athletes Toby Gold (17.84) and Andrew Small (17.96) clinched silver and bronze respectively.

“The race was good because I got first. I’m very happy to have the gold medal in the Paralympics in Rio. My training has been good, I had a good start,” said Almutairi.

Tunisia’s Abbes Saidi (4:13.81) held off Australia’s world record holder Deon Kenzie (4:14.95) as he took the win in the men’s 1,500m T38 – his first individual Paralympic title from four Games.

With all three medallists from last year’s World Championships in the field a tough competition was always on the cards but Saidi, the reigning world champion, got his tactics just right.

“It is my fourth time in the Paralympics but each time is very special. And now I am extremely happy to win the gold medal,” said Saidi.

“I had won a gold medal before, in the 4x400m relay at Athens 2004, but of course it has a special taste. I am so pleased.”

The 33-year-old sat on Kenzie’s shoulder before racing past with less than 300m to go, leaving the Australian unable to respond. Kenzie set a new Oceania record as he finished in second place and French world silver medallist Louis Radius (4:17.19) won bronze.