Teen holds on to Paralympics dream

Determination: Zy warming up with his coach in Thailand. Besides his usual routine, he also helps in the kitchen and takes part in charity takeouts for the homeless and disabled children.

GEORGE TOWN: With the clock ticking away to the Tokyo Paralympics in August, differently-abled Zy Kher Lee remains hopeful of making his debut in the world’s biggest Games.

If not for the escalating Covid-19 situation around the world, the 14-year-old swimmer could have sealed his Paralympics spot at the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports (IWAS) World Games 2020 last year.

But the event in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, scheduled for April last year was cancelled due to the pandemic.

“It is my dream to take part in the Paralympic Games. The IWAS World Games was my hope to win medals for Malaysia and qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics.

“I was confident of a good showing, having represented Malaysia in the World Para Swimming World Series.

“Right now, I just hope I could be drafted into the national team, ” said Zy, whose fate now lies in the hands of the National Selection Board.

Known fondly as Zy, the differently-abled boy was born with a complete left arm, half a right arm, no right leg and malformed left leg with only three toes.

Without competitive meets, Zy remains focused on securing a memorable debut at the Games from Aug 24 to Sept 5.

He has been in Bangkok, Thailand, with his parents since November last year, and is now training under the Thailand Paralympics swimming coaches.

“It is a new experience to train with them and I have learnt a lot.

“Due to the pandemic, I only train two times a week, for three hours each session. This includes dry land training, warm-up and stretches.

“Prior to the pandemic, I trained at least four times a week with a few coaches in Penang.

“There is no excuse for me to stop training and we’ll have to play by ear and be more real time in everything we do, ” he said in a Zoom interview on Thursday.

Zy, who has been spending the Lunar New Year in Penang over the years, celebrated the festive season in Bangkok, Thailand, for the first time.

“But the celebration will not be the same, as my elder brother who is studying in Penang is not with us.

“We will video call each other during the period, ” he said.

Zy also said he missed going to school, meeting friends and coaches.

“I have been attending online classes every weekday in the morning and keeping in touch with my friends through homework and online games.

“Besides my usual routine, I also help in the kitchen and take part in charity takeouts for homeless and disabled children.

“My parents are firm believers of physical experience, ” he said.

Zy’s father, Walter Lee, 55, said Zy is his role model in life.

“When I am down and out, I think of my son and get powered up. I have nothing to complain about. My son has so much less but he is living life with much gusto and then I snap out of the negative loop.

“Disability by definition is abnormality and it is subjective to everyone. I am happy that Zy, who is differently-abled, came to our family,

“Being different is no barrier on what he is capable of doing, ” said Lee, a Penang-born celebrity chef and host of his own television programme in Thailand.

Lee said the pandemic had made him a more resilient person.

“Although I was beaten down by business and other issues, the pandemic has brought up the inner power and potential in me.

“I started learning new things, starting up businesses, coming up with more ideas and strategies to fast forward the Zy Movement Foundation, ” he said, referring to the foundation founded in 2009 aimed at helping 10 million children in Asean with movement disabilities to be independent.

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Paralympics , Games , sports


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