SEPANG,. Rio 2016 Paralympics gold medallists Abdul Latif Romly, Muhammad Ziyad Zokefli and Mohamad Ridzuan Mohamad Puzi tonight left for the Tokyo Paralympic Games as head of the third batch of the Malaysian contingent.
They were among the group of 28 who departed for Tokyo, comprising 11 athletes and 11 officials, Paralympic Council of Malaysia vice-president Muhd Iqbal Sulaiman, National Sports Institute (NSI) chief executive officer Ahmad Faedzal Md Ramli and four of his officers.
The third batch, the biggest group among the Malaysian contingent, left Kuala Lumpur International Airport here at 10.50 pm on a Japan Airlines plane and is expected to arrive at Narita International Airport in Tokyo at 7.05 am Japan time (6.05 am in Malaysia).
The other athletes in the group are Wong Kar Gee, Siti Noor Lasah Mohamad Ariffin (athletics), S. Suresh, Wiro Julin (archery), Bonnie Bunyau Gustin, Jong Yee Khie (powerlifting), Chew Wei Lun (boccia) and Abu Samah Borhan (wheelchair tennis).
Present to send them off were Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Zuki Ali, Youth and Sports Ministry secretary-general Datuk M Noor Azman Taib and former Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican.
Mohd Zuki, in his speech, urged these special athletes to prove that their Rio 2016 achievements were not due to luck by repeating their success in Tokyo.
He hoped that the national contingent would display the spirit shown by the Malaysian squad to the recent Tokyo Olympics which saw track cyclist Datuk Mohd Azizulhasni Awang winning silver in men’s keirin and Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik bagging bronze in badminton men’s doubles.
On Thursday, the first group of two officials and five cyclists left for Tokyo while the second group of 15 led by chef de mission Datuk Seri Megat D Shahriman Zaharudin and comprising swimmers, table tennis players, National Sports Council Paralympic Division director Mohd Sofian Hamzah and NSI staff left later in the night.
The fourth and final batch of Malaysian athletes comprising three badminton players is expected to leave on Tuesday.
Malaysia, who will be represented by 22 athletes in nine sports, are targeting to win three gold medals at the Tokyo games.
At Rio 2016, Malaysia won three golds and one bronze, all in athletics, for their best ever achievement since making their debut in the Paralympics in 1972.