Malaysia has secured its first gold medal in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Paralympics Games when national powerlifting champion, Bonnie Bunyau Gustin pulled off the herculean feat on the fourth day of the prestigious event.
Serian-Born Athlete Wins Gold
More impressively, the Sarawakian who was born in Serian (a small town just under an hour drive from Kuching city) also broke the Paralympics record of 227kg set by former silver medalist, Rasool Mohsin from Iraq in Rio 2016 when he successfully lifted 228kg in his third attempt on the first day of the event. With his first placement on the podium, the silver and bronze medals went to Mahmoud Attia from Egypt and Great Britain’s Micky Yule respectively.
However, Bonnie did not manage to match his own world record of 230kg that was set at the 11th Fazza Dubai Powerlifting World Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last year when he missed the 231kg lift in his fourth attempt.
The diminutive Bonnie started off the event with a bang as he successfully completed his first lift at 217kg. He then went on to maintain his exceptional run by lifting 225kg in his second attempt before finishing off with aplomb with the aforementioned Paralympics record-breaking third attempt in the men’s 72kg category — trailing his closest competitors in the event by a mile. On the other hand, second-placing Mahmoud secured his position after a lift of 191kg in his third attempt, whereas Micky grabbed the bronze from a 182kg lift, also in his third attempt.
The 22-year-old’s success in winning the first powerlifting gold medal for the nation also marked another exemplary milestone in Malaysia’s participation in the prestigious games — an international event that Malaysia has been actively participating in since the 1972 edition in Heidelberg, Germany.
It would then be apropos then that very first medal in the Paralympic Malaysia Games also came via the powerlifting event when P. Mariappan won bronze in 1988 in Seoul, South Korea. Mariappan would then secure his bronze medal in the next games in Barcelona in 1992, along with Cheok Kon Fatt who contributed a silver medal to Malaysia’s growing medal tally.
And in the 2008 edition of the Paralympic Games in Beijing, another Malaysian powerlifter, Siow Lee Chan made history when she became the first Malaysian female athlete to win in the event when she won the bronze medal.
As for this latest edition of the Summer Paralympic Games, the Malaysian powerlifting camp rounded off an impressive expedition for gold in Tokyo with 32-year old Jong Yee Khie winning the silver medal in the men’s 107kg event.
Both Paralympic heroes have since returned to Malaysia to a modest but meaningful reception upon their arrival at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and are currently in the midst of undergoing the mandatory 14-day quarantine before they will be cleared to meet their respective families.