Top 50 Moments of 2017: No.38 – Zolkefli’s social media stardom

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Malaysian thrower goes viral after world title-winning performance at London 2017

When Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli struck gold on the second day of competition at the London 2017 World Para Athletics Championships, fans and followers took to social media like never before.

Zolkefli’s opening round effort of 17.29m in the men’s shot put F20 smashed his previous world record mark set when he won gold at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and proved enough to seal his second world title.

News of the 27-year-old’s achievements in London quickly spread around the globe and footage of Zolkefli’s throw became World Para Athletics’ top Tweet of the championships, with over 7,000 retweets and nearly 3,500 likes.

Zolkefli’s exploits were, in terms of social media engagement, the biggest moment of the championships and enters as No. 38 on the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Top 50 Moments of 2017.

The Malaysian first hit the headlines in 2016 when he won his country’s first ever Paralympic gold medal at the Rio Games, and fans were quick to show their support once again – Malaysian media also got behind their top thrower too.

Zolkefli featured in numerous national titles, including The Star, the New Straits Times and the Malaysian Digest, which, even before the Championships began, ran a story stating:

“These sporting heroes have captured the nation’s attention for the disabled like never before. With the slogan of Kami Luar Biasa (We Are Extraordinary), they have inspired Malaysians that the disabled can contribute just as much as their able-bodied counterparts and they are ready to show the world again that they are extraordinary.”

After Zolkefli’s victory, the Malay Mail reported on Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s congratulatory message to Zolkefli on his official Twitter site, which read:

“Congratulations @yardzolkefli (sic), in winning the gold medal in #London2017 and once again breaking the world record! #kebanggaanku #Negaraku #MAS”

Bernama, the Malaysian News Agency picked up the story and Zolkefli featured on Malaysian television too, returning home to a hero’s welcome broadcast on Malaysian TV1.

Zolkefli wasn’t the only one to hit the headlines out in the field at London 2017 and excel in the shot put. Great Britain’s Aled Davies won double world gold at his third consecutive championships with victory and a new world record of 17.52m in the F42 event. The 26-year-old also struck gold in the discus F42.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Akeem Stewart also notched up two world titles with world records to boot. Stewart’s superb effort of 19.08m in the shot put F44 added nearly five metres on to the previous F43 mark which had stood since 1996, while in the javelin F44 he improved on his own previous best set at Rio 2016.

The countdown of the IPC’s Top 50 Moments continues until 31 December.

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