KUALA LUMPUR – National Paralympian Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli has described the next five months as the most crucial period in his sporting career as he homes in on the Tokyo Paralympics.
The former world champion, who won gold in shot put in the F20 (intellectual impairment) category at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, said the COVID-19 pandemic had made it a challenge for him in his preparations for the Tokyo Paralympics in August.
Muhammad Ziyad said training alone at home since the beginning of the year following the enforcement of the Movement Control Order (MCO) was not effective compared to training at Bukit Jalil, which is fully equipped and where he can get guidance from his coach.
“For now, I am just training alone at home but it’s not enough. I am very worried about how I will perform in Tokyo. I hope I can focus and catch up on my training in the next five months,” he told Bernama today.
He is, however, expected to report for training at Bukit Jalil as early as next week.
The 30-year-old, who is also on a mission to try and break the world record at the Tokyo Paralympics, is worried that there may a dip in his performance level, having not taken part in any international-level competitions since 2019.
He hoped that his coach, the Paralympic Council of Malaysia (PCM) and Youth and Sports Ministry would be able to find suitable championships for him to compete in as a “warm-up” for the Tokyo Paralympics.
Muhammad Ziyad confirmed his spot in Tokyo after winning a silver medal in shot put (F20 category) at the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai with a throw of 17.03 metres.
He holds the world record of 17.29m set at the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships in London, erasing his own mark of 16.84m set at the Rio Paralympics.
Meanwhile, Muhammad Ziyad said he was thrilled to receive a house from Naza Corporation Holdings recently in recognition of his efforts in glorifying the country’s name at the Rio Paralympics.
“I plan to view the new house soon… I plan to stay here every weekend after this,” said Muhammad Ziyad, who already owns a home in Bangi, Selangor.
Two other gold medallists at the Rio Paralympics – Mohamad Ridzuan Mohamad Puzi in the 100m T36 (cerebral palsy) category and Abdul Latif Romly in the long jump T20 (intellectual disability) – were also rewarded with a house each and all three received their house keys in an event that was held virtually on Wednesday.
Meanwhile in another development, the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) has announced that the President’s Cup and Youth Cup competitions will be held under a new format for this season only due to the COVID-19 situation in the country.
FAM said in a statement today that this was in line with their approach to make 2021 the year of transition in carrying out tournaments under their purview apart from ensuring the continuity of the league until the end of the season.
The governing body announced that 19 teams had applied to compete in the President’s Cup and 20 teams in the Youth Cup this season.
“The two tournaments will be categorised based on geographical locations according to zones – north, south, east, west and central (including Sabah and Sarawak) – beginning from June.
“The teams will be divided into three groups, with Group A comprising teams from the south, west and central zones; Group B consisting of teams from the north and central zones; and Group C with teams from the east, west and central zones,” the statement said.
FAM hoped that the zonal format would ensure the league could be completed within the fixed time frame and reduce the teams’ travelling costs during these trying times.
The new format will see the top teams from the three groups competing in a knockout competition after the group stage.
“For both competitions, the top five teams from Groups A, B and C as well as the best sixth-placed team from the three groups will make the last-16. This will then be followed by the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.
“The last-16, quarter-finals and semi-finals will be played in a one-off knockout format while the final will be over two legs (home and away),” the statement said.
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