Malaysia’s Muhammad Huzairi Abdul Malek served a pleasant surprise when he upstaged former world, Asian and three-time Asean champion Pham Duc Trung of Vietnam in the men’s singles (SL3) quarter-finals to reach the last four at the Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil on Thursday.
SL3 is impairment in one or both lower limbs and poor walking/running balance. To minimise the impact of their impairment they compete half-court (lengthwise).
Huzairi, however, did not have it easy in the match against the 43-year-old Vietnamese who has been competing in the para games since 2003. The Malaysian lost a hard fought first game at 27-29 and then turned the tables on his opponent with a 21-15 in the second to force a rubber.
And in the decider Huzairi was in complete control against the fast tiring Duc Trung who also sought medical treatment for a muscle pull midway in the rubber called it quits during the break with the Malaysian leading 11-0.
“It is a great win for me. To beat a player who has been a world, Asian and three-times Asean champion is fantastic.
“He was a tough nut alright but I tired him with long rallies and got back into the game after a close battle in the first which I lost narrowly due to my mistakes,” said a delighted Huzairi.
The 27-year-old from Kajang will now face Indonesia’s Maman Nurjaman in the semi-finals later in the day – confident of making things count after his inspiring win over the Vietnamese.
Huzairi, a full time para athlete, is competing in his fourth Asean Para Games and his best effort was at the last games in Singapore (2015) where he won a bronze after making his debut in 2009 in Kuala Lumpur. He also competed in Indonesia in 2011.
Duc Trung was gracious in his defeat and congratulated Huzairi for his win.
“He (Huzairi) deserved to win. I had a tough time against him in the first game and could not cope with his speed,” said Duc Trung who made his debut in para games in Hanoi (2003) and won gold in 2007 (Korat), 2009 (Malaysia) and 2011 (Indonesia).
Duc Trung, who is married and has two sons aged five and 10 years, is not giving up. Instead, he is preparing for the games in Manila.