KUALA LUMPUR: National para athlete Mohamad Ridzuan Puzi cemented his status as one of the country’s sporting greats by winning the 2018 Best Asian Male Para Athlete award.
The 31-year-old from Kuala Lumpur is the first Malaysian para athlete to win the award for his exploits in the sprint and long jump events last year.
He will receive the award in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), on Feb 5.
The 2016 Rio Paralympic 100m gold medal winner was thrilled to bits after he beat a strong field at the Asian Para Games in Jakarta last October.
“I never expected to win the award as there were a few other athletes who have also done well in the Asian Para Games,” said Ridzuan, who won gold in the blue riband event in the World Para Championships in Doha in 2015.
“It’s an honour as I’m the first Malaysian to win this award.”
He created history in the Asian Para Games by breaking the world record in the men’s 100m T36 (cerebral palsy) and the Asian Games record in long jump en route to winning a total of three golds.
He did a personal best of 11.87 in the blue riband event to erase the previous world record of 11.90 set by Russia’s Evgenii Shvetcov at the 2013 World Championships in Lyon.
Ridzuan also broke the Asian Games record in the long jump event with a personal best of 5.49m, erasing the previous record of 5.45m set by Yang Yi Fei in 2016.
He also won gold in the 400m.
Ridzuan thanked the National Sports Council (NSC), the National Paralympic Committee and singled out his personal coach R. Jaganathan.
“I wouldn’t have done it without the guidance of coach Jaganathan,” said Ridzuan.
“It will spur me to do much better in the World Para Athletics Championships in Doha in November.”
Jaganathan, who has been coaching Ridzuan since 2009, said he was proud of Ridzuan’s achievements.
“Ridzuan is a role model to the other Malaysian para athletes – they should emulate him and believe in their own abilities.
“He is a dedicated athlete as he always gives his best in competitions and I’m also proud that he has won golds in all major championships – the Paralympics and the World Para Championships.
“As a coach, I do feel really good to have helped para track and field athletes win all major golds. And I will continue to raise the level of our athletes,” said Jaganathan.
Ridzuan’s other assignments this year are the World Para Athlete Grand Prix in Grosseto, Italy, from June 8-9 and in Paris, France, from Aug 28-29.