Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli, a shot putter from Malaysia, won the gold medal in the F20 class of the 2020 Paralympic Games. However, the 31-year-old was stripped of the medal for showing up late to the competition, according to the Associated Press. Craig Spence, a spokesman for the International Paralympic Committee, said Zolkefli and two others were allowed to compete under protest after failing to show up on time for the event.
“They were late, they may have had a logical reason for being late, and therefore we allowed them to compete and look at the facts of the matter afterward,” Spence said. A statement from World Para Athletics said the referee determined that “there was no justifiable reason for the athlete’s failure” to report on time. The decision led to some strong reactions on social media.
“We are now seeing comments on all our social media posts that have nothing to do with the men’s shot put F20 event,” Spence said.”I’m sorry. Rules are rules “The decision was taken. It wasn’t the Ukrainians’ fault that the Malaysian was late.” With Zolkefli stripped of the gold medal, it led to Maksym Koval of Ukraine winning taking first, Ukraine teammate Oleksandr Yarovyi getting the silver medal and Efstratios Nikolaidis of Greece grabbing bronze.
Spence said Zolkefli and the two athletes arrived three minutes late. He said he did not see it as a harsh penalty since “others get there five minutes early.” The three athletes said they were late because they “didn’t hear the announcement or it was in a language” they didn’t understand.
There was a lot of backlash on Twitter after the decision was made. “Imagine working 4 years to prove your abilities at the greatest possible stage, performing and exceeding those expectations only to lose it all due to some dips— saying u were 3 minutes late!” one person wrote. Another person added: “Very sad he was stripped off his gold medal by overzealous application of rules. Sometimes it takes intelligence and compassion to make an exception to the rule. An appeal should be allowed and original decision to let him compete allowed to stand.” Zolkefli is one of the top shot putters in the world. He won the gold medal in the F20 Class at the Rio Paralympic Games in 2016 and earned a bronze medal at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.