National shot-put coach Mohd Faizol Harun has taken full responsibility for the disqualification of Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
Faizol said that as the athlete’s coach, he was the one closest to Ziyad during the Games.
“To all parties looking for who is guilty in this matter, I, as Ziyad’s coach and the one closest to him, am responsible for what happened.
“Don’t point fingers at others,” he told a media conference upon returning with the national contingent at KLIA today.
He also denied there was any sabotage involved, adding that it was a technical mistake while insisting that he and Ziyad had arrived on time at the call room.
Ziyad, 31, was denied the gold medal in the men’s shot-put F20 (intellectual impairment) category at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo despite throwing a distance of 17.94m – a new world record.
He was classified as did not start (DNS) following a protest by the Ukraine team, who claimed that Ziyad had been late to enter the call room.
Ukraine’s Maksym Koval was announced as the gold medallist with a throw of 17.34m, breaking Ziyad’s world record of 17.29m set at the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships in London.
However, Faizol said he had no proof to show that Ziyad had arrived at the call room on time since no one is allowed to take video recordings or photographs there.
“We reached on time and the Ukraine coach was still there. I don’t know why he was there. Actually, like me, I sent Ziyad there and then I went into the competition venue because I knew he had arrived at the call room and was safe,” he said.
Relating the chronology of events that day, Faizol said they had arrived at the warm-up area near the Olympic Stadium at 4.15pm where Ziyad conducted his warm-up routine from 4.45pm until 5.30pm.
After that, they spent 15 minutes getting Ziyad ready, including giving him a massage after he complained of stiff muscles before they both walked towards the venue at exactly 5.45pm.
“We had done our calculation that from the warm-up track to the nearest call room would take about eight to 10 minutes by walking at a normal pace. If we walked faster, maybe in five to six minutes. So, we walked there casually.
“In front of us was a Greek athlete, who was about four to five metres ahead. When we arrived, he (the Greek athlete) was allowed to enter, but we were stopped. When I saw the time it was 5.55pm. Actually, we could still go in,” he said.
He claimed that the assistant judge had ignored their repeated pleas to allow Ziyad into the call room, although at the same time the official managed the entry of the high jump athletes, before finally telling him and Ziyad that they were late while pointing to his watch, which showed exactly 5.56pm.
However, he said Ziyad was finally allowed to enter after a discussion between the chief judge and a Ukrainian coach.
“After that I went into the stadium and Ziyad competed. After his third throw, I was told by an official that Ziyad (had been classified as) DNS. If we had known earlier, I surely would not have let Ziyad compete,” he said.