PETALING JAYA: It was a day of double joy for Malaysia as Rio Paralympics gold medallists Ziyad Zolkefli and Abdul Latif Romly emerged triumphant at the World Para Athletics Championships in London, England.
After Ziyad broke his own world record en route to win the men’s shot putt F20 (learning disability) event on Saturday, it was Abdul Latif’s turn to successfully retain his men’s long jump T20 (learning disability) yesterday.
Abdul Latif leapt 7.37m in his fifth attempt to go on top for the first time in the final at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
It turned out to be the winning distance, bettering his own championship record of 7.35m when he won gold in the 2015 edition in Doha, Qatar.
Talic Zoran of Croatia, who also finished second behind Latif at the Rio Paralympics last year, settled for silver with 7.32m.
Ukraine’s Dmytro Prudnikov took the bronze with 7.12m.
Abdul Latif, who bagged the 2016 National Sportsman of the Year award, is the world record holder in the event.
He leapt 7.6m on his way to win the gold in Rio last year.
On Saturday, all it took was one spectacular throw for Ziyad to regain his world title.
A sensational opening throw of 17.29m saw Ziyad breaking his own world record of 16.84m set in Rio last year and enough to reclaim the title he last won in the 2013 edition in Lyon, France.
The remaining eight finalists failed to better Ziyad’s distance and he pumped his fists in the air upon seeing his name flashed on the scoreboard.
Stalin Mosquera of Ecuador took silver with 16.72m.
Australian Todd Hodgetts, the previous meet record holder at 15.83m and winner at the 2012 Paralympics in London, settled for bronze with 15.95m.
The 27-year-old Ziyad, who bagged the bronze in the 2015 edition in Doha, has emerged as a contender for gold at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games next month when he competes against able-bodied athletes.
His new personal best surpassed the second place qualifying mark of 17.05m from the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore.
Ziyad, who will become a father for the first time next month, said he had goosebumps upon seeing the Malaysian flag raised at the venue.
“I came here to bring something back to my country. This is the second world record for me and I am so proud. I have trained so hard.
“I woke up this morning (Saturday) and thought I could break the world record. I always dreamt that I would do it and tonight I did it.
“World record, Paralympics champion and now world champion – that sounds good,” said Ziyad, who is set to receive a windfall of RM90,000 for his feat.
Under the National Sports Council incentive scheme, RM80,000 is given for a gold and an additional RM10,000 for a record set.
Hodgetts, commenting on the International Paralympic Committee website, said: “It took a world record to beat me but he beat me fair and square. This is not the end. I hope at the next world championships I will get him.”