When national Paralympics athlete, Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli’s shot landed well across the 17.94 metres mark during the recent Tokyo Paralympic Games, there was an almost palpable sense of celebration present all throughout Malaysia as a gold medal was all but inevitable for the defending champion in the men’s F20 shot put event.
This joyous achievement, however, was very short-lived as the Rio 2016 gold medalist’s efforts were ultimately classified as Did Not Start (DNS) by judges after a protest lodged against him, Australia’s Todd Hodgetts, and Ecuador’s Congo Villalba by the Ukrainian team who claimed that they reported late to the call room before the event started.
This would mean that Ziyad’s world-record shattering efforts were called off and the gold ultimately went to second placing Ukrainian, Maksym Koval — whose own throw of 17.34 metres broke Ziyad’s previous record by a small margin.
Ziyad Zolkefli Apologises After Controversial Disqualification
In what would have been the perfect Merdeka present for Malaysia, Zayid’s countrymen are now jumping in to defend the athlete’s efforts, as well as chastising the unsportsmanlike conduct of the Ukrainian team. So much so, that there have been some overzealous netizens going on tirades on some of the Ukrainian athletes’ public pages. That being said, Malaysia’s ace Paralympian could only offer his sincerest apologies and thank all of Malaysia for supporting him in an Instagram post.
As for the controversy, it happened on the seventh day of the supposed prestigious games also saw Ukrainian compatriot, Oleksandr Yarovyi secure the silver after throwing a distance of 17.30 metres, while the bronze went to Greece’s Efstratios Nikolaidis who had a throw of 15.93 metres.
In an earlier attempt, the 31-year-old athlete had assumed that he had won and successfully defended his gold medal from the 2016 Rio Paralympics when he hurled the shot to an impressive distance of 17.31 metres on his first try to break his previous world record. And in his third attempt, he further smashed the record to leave his supposedly second and third placing rivals trailing behind.
This was the opportune moment when the Ukrainian team decided to lodge the protest with the technical committee, which led to Ziyad and the other two’s disqualification for being late to enter the call room.The Malaysian contingent together with Australia and Ecuador who were equally unsatisfied with the results lodged protests and appealed to the technical committee of the competition as soon as the final results were released. Along with that, Malaysia also lodged an appeal to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the World Para Athletics (WPA) over the unfair decision.
However, the WPA has so far rejected the appeals of Malaysia, Australia, and Ecuador as the organisation has cited the World Para Athletics Rule 5.5 – “Failure to Report to the Call Room” as the basis of the decision. This rule states that in the case of athletes who are not present in the call room at the relevant call time, they will be shown in the results as DNS.
While Ziyad’s initial appeal has been rejected, there is still hope as the Paralympic Council of Malaysia (PCM) intends to appeal once again to the IPC and the WPA after the conclusion of the Tokyo Games.
In the meantime, Malaysian authorities have given assurances that Ziyad will still receive a national hero’s welcome when he returns to Malaysia.