JAKARTA: Indonesian Muhammad Fadli Imamuddin capped off a remarkable comeback from a career-ending motorcycle crash by winning three medals as a cyclist at the 2018 Asian Para Games.
Imamuddin, known to his fans as Fadli, scooped gold, silver and bronze with a three-man team in the men’s team sprint event in Jakarta.
His win Friday was the first gold medal for the Indonesian para cycling team.
“Fadli’s victory has encouraged other athletes,” his coach Rizan Setyo told AFP Saturday.
Passionate Indonesian fans broke into thunderous applause after the race as Fadli kissed his wife, who was carrying their son, then hugged his coaches and kissed the ground in a sign of gratitude.
Fadli has become a byword for determination among many Indonesian athletes competing in the Games after fighting back from injury to become a world-leading competitor in a new discipline.
In 2015, just moments after clinching an Asian Road Racing Championship event at Sentul International Circuit, Fadli was ploughed into by a Thai competitor, sending him tumbling onto the asphalt and breaking his left leg.
The limb was later amputated after multiple surgeries.
While adjusting to life with a prosthetic leg, the 34-year-old was called by the Indonesian Cycling Federation asking if he was interested in competing as a para cycling athlete.
Buoyed by the opportunity to become a world champion, Fadli says he jumped at the chance and immediately began training.
Within a year of having his leg amputated, he finished fourth at the 2017 Asian Para Cycling Championship.
“When people were still crying and lamenting about my fate, I had already moved on and tried to be active once again,” Fadli recently told AFP while training for the Games.
His silver-medal finish on Monday was flush with symbolism as it was won at the same venue as the crash which ended his illustrious motorcycle career.
But Fadli’s return to sport — less than three years after his accident — has been inspiring for other Indonesian para athletes.
“He is an icon. In para cycling he is considered a role model and the big brother for all athletes,” Fadilah Umar, the head coach national para-cycling team said.
Despite his impressive three times medal haul, Fadli said he had bigger goals in mind while competing at the Games.
He said he wanted to become an inspiration for his son, who was born just two weeks after his accident, and for people with disabilities who wanted to become professional athletes.
“My son is my biggest supporter, if I didn’t do anything I would not be able to become the best role model for him,” he said.
The third 2018 Asian Para Games concludes in Jakarta on Saturday.
Forty-three nations participated with almost 3,000 athletes competing in 18 different sports. —AFP