by Muhamad Ashraf Bin Muhammad Haisham
My name is Muhamad Ashraf. I was born 22 years ago in Pulau Pangkor, Perak. I studied at SMK Batu Sepuluh Setiawan, Perak and was very active in athletics. Every year, I represented my school, district and state in cross country and 1500m events. I aspired to don the national colours and represent Malaysia in athletics.
On 12 January 2013, I was involved in a motorcycle accident in Lumut which changed my life. I was hospitalised at the Ipoh General Hospital with what I thought was a minor injury. Unfortunately, doctors informed me that I fell so hard off the motorcycle that 90% of my left arm was injured. I pleaded with them not to amputate. I’m left handed and will be sitting for my SPM exam at the end of the year. How can I write my answers for the exam? Tears rolled down my cheeks because of frustration and helplessness. Was there a way to save my arm? When I saw how horrific the injuries were, I reluctantly agreed for doctors to amputate.
That’s the start of my new life. I cried every day when I thought of the misfortune that had befallen me. I could not envision a future. I know my parents were heartbroken to see their son lose his arm. I know they wept every day but they never showed their pain in front of me. They wanted me to be strong and smile like before. My parents were my source of strength and I persevered because of them. I adapted to life with one arm. As I was sitting for my SPM, I learnt to write with my right hand. I was ashamed to go out in public and didn’t want to go to school until the SPM exams.
My school teacher encouraged me to continue being an athlete. He told me about opportunities to be a para-athlete. I didn’t know about the Paralympic Games then. When I told my parents about it, they were happy and they too encouraged me to continue participating in athletics. I searched the internet for information on Paralympic athletes. However, I couldn’t see myself doing that as I was born without a disability. However, my parents urged me to take part in the 2014 Malaysian Paralimpiad in Perlis.
That was when I met other persons with disabilities. I initially felt awkward when interacting with them. But as time went on, my interest in para sports grew and I was determined to represent Malaysia. In 2014, I was offered the opportunity to train at the National Sports Council. Even without an allowance, I trained hard because of my parents’ continuous support and encouragement.
I first represented Malaysia in the ASEAN Para Games in Singapore in 2015. I won a gold medal in the 800m event and silver medal in the 1500m event. What made victory sweeter was I managed to break the 800m record which had stood for 10 years. My parents cried tears of joy when they saw my success. They knew how difficult life was for me after losing my arm. I enjoyed life again. The Paralympic Games have become my lifelong ambition. I was determined to train even harder. However, success did not come easy. I experienced setbacks which taught me patience and perseverance. I experienced success again in 2015 at the IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Beijing where I won the 1500m event.
My mission for the 2017 KL ASEAN Para Games was to win two gold medals. I continued to train hard and continued to improve. It all paid off when I won two gold (800m and 1500m) and one silver (400m) medals in front of my family and Malaysian supporters in KL. I also managed to break the ASEAN Para Games record for 1500m. I couldn’t believe it!
Earlier this year, I started training for the Jakarta Asian Para Games. I was initially demotivated because I knew I would be competing with world class athletes. I prayed for strength and asked my parents to keep me in their prayers too. I trained hard because I knew it was not easy to win a medal at the Asian level.
As I continued to train, I felt more positive and my times improved. On the day of competition, I recalled the path that had led me there. All the sacrifices had been worth it. In the competition, I gave it my all. Prayers, determination and my coach’s advice helped me win the 1500m silver medal for Malaysia. It was an emotional moment and I could not hold back the tears that flowed involuntarily down my cheeks onto the ground in Jakarta. I was grateful for my life and that was my most memorable moment as a para-athlete.
Everything happens for a reason. Even though I’ve been through many challenges, I’ve never complained and blamed fate. Challenges have taught me the meaning of perseverance and made me more “perfect” despite my physical impairment. I am grateful for my current life and am closer to God. I continue to chase my dreams. Who would have thought that I would become a better person when lost my left arm? Who would believe that I’m now number 2 in Asia when I used to finish last? We should be courageous in life. I want my story to be a lesson to others not to give up and to chase their dreams.