February 28, 2023
KUALA LUMPUR – Born with sacral agenesis, Umar Hafiy Harith Nor Amir Hafizi, seven, will never have what is deemed a normal life because of his severely deformed hips and legs.
But whatever fate takes away, the earnest desire to strive and thrive glows strong in him, and he has the chance now to excel despite overwhelming odds.
This little boy became adept at using a simple skateboard to move around.
Upon the invitation of the Penang state government, he skated to the top of Komtar to meet swimming coach Ang Tean Hin, 64, who has a track record of turning boys like him into competitive paralympic swimmers.
The boy’s mother, Nurul Fathiah Noordin, 38, who went along to meet Ang, confessed that she never imagined her son would have a shot at becoming an athlete.
“It is a blessing for him to receive such an offer. For us, as parents, we want him to have a successful life,” she said when met on the rooftop of Komtar.
She hopes with the training from Ang, her son will find new spirit and confidence.
Ang has the honour of training Muhammad Nur Faris Ghazali, now 18, who is similarly disabled, to the extent of creating waves at state and national-level swimming competitions.
Ang said his first step was to build Umar Hafiy’s confidence in the water and breathing techniques while swimming.
“Even though they are disabled, parents should treat them like any normal kid.
“This will increase their spirit and they will not feel that they are different,” he said.
He said looking at Umar Hafiy, he saw potential in the boy as a swimmer, just like how he saw Muhammad Nur Faris when he took him under his wings seven years ago.
Umar Hafiy and his parents were invited by state social development committee chairman Chong Eng to meet Ang and two of his prodigies – Muhammad Nur and Muhammad Nafis Raziz, 13.
Muhammad Nafis’ mother, Rosfina A Razak, 42, said his son trained under Ang for about a year and showed good improvement in swimming.
“He participated in district competitions, representing his school, and recently in February took part in the Penang Amateur Swimming Association (Pasa) competition representing his club,” she said, adding that she is happy with her son’s achievements.
Muhammad Nafis has cerebral palsy from birth but he said he was happy with his performance and would not stop striving to be better.
“I want to compete in the Paralympics one day,” he said.
As for Muhammad Nur, he is currently vying for a place at the Asean Para SEA Games in Cambodia in June.
In March last year, he swept four gold and two silver medals at the National Para Swimming Cham-pionships in Kuala Lumpur and won many more medals at state and national levels.
His mother Khalijah Ismail said as a mother she would encourage her son to achieve success and inspire Umar Hafiy and Muhammad Nafis to excel.
“I want my son to be at his best and challenge himself so that he can represent the country at the highest level possible,” she said.
Chong urged parents with disabled children to spur them to achieve high levels in education, living skills and sports.
“When you focus on someone’s imperfections, you ignore their abilities and uniqueness,” she said.