Perhaps relatively little is known about Malaysia’s Paralympic team, which took the world stage after the more prominent Olympic contingent in Tokyo, Japan, late last month.
Yet, it has so far clinched three medals – one gold and two silver – ahead of the last day of the Games on Sept 5.
Speaking to MalaysiaNow, sports analyst Dr Pekan Ramli said Malaysia’s management of its Paralympic athletes is one of the best in Asia.
He said the Paralympic Council of Malaysia had been active since the 1990s and took great care of its athletes’ welfare.
“Our Paralympic athletes are of international standard thanks to a systematic training system with good coaches, and strong support from the government,” he added.
“The continuous support from the National Sports Council and government drives the production of our Paralympic athletes.”
Malaysia’s gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympic Games was won by powerlifting athlete Bonnie Bunyau Gustin who competed in the 72kg category.
Fellow powerlifting athlete Jong Yee Khie won silver in the 107kg category while national boccia athlete Chew Wei Lun won silver in the mixed individual (BC1) category.
At the previous Paralympic Games in Rio, in 2016, Malaysia bagged three gold medals, won by Mohamad Ridzuan Mohamad Puzi (T36 100m), Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli (F20 shot-put) and Abdul Latif Romly (T20 long jump).
The national contingent at the 2016 Rio Olympics, meanwhile, won four silver medals and one bronze.
Pekan cautioned against comparing the achievements, saying different criteria and benchmarks were involved.
“It would be unfair and inaccurate to compare the achievements of the Olympic athletes and the Paralympic athletes,” he said.
“There are many additional factors involved in boosting the performance of Olympic athletes – technology, food supplements and so on.”
Competition at the Olympics level is also stiffer as there are many levels to get through.
Pekan gave the example of the 100m event at the Olympics which he said involves dozens of qualifying stages.
“Just getting to the finals is difficult,” he said. “Not all countries can send as many athletes as they want.”
At the Paralympics, meanwhile, there are nearly 20 different categories for the 100m event.
“Sometimes there are not enough participants,” Pekan said. “So there are not so many qualifying levels, maybe only one before the finals.”
Nevertheless, he said, the similar levels of incentives for the Paralympic athletes and Olympic athletes prove that their achievements are equally important.