Dad believes in Saifuddin’s ability to bring home glory

JOHOR BARU: Despite his boy being vision-impaired, retiree Ishak Md Rejab has never doubted the ability of his son, an avid sports fan who rose to become a national para athlete, to bring glory and honour to the country.

The father of long jumper Mohamad Saifuddin, 30, said his youngest son, who was born blind in the left eye, has shared his interest in sports from a young age.

“A sports fan myself, I always watched the sports segment during the nightly news and Boy (Saifuddin’s nickname) would watch it with me,” the 71-year-old recalled.

Mohamad Saifuddin, he said, started participating in sports, especially in long jump, when he was in Year One at SK Pendidikan Khas Princess Elizabeth and later at Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar (better known as English College).

“He won numerous district, state and national-level competitions,” the proud father of five said when met at his house in Kampung Melayu here yesterday.

At the 11th Para Asean Games, which are being held in Solo, Indonesia, until today, Mohamad Saifuddin won gold for Malaysia in the men’s long jump T11/12 (vision impairment) category.

Ishak added that despite his son’s interest in sports, he would not let it distract him from his education because of its importance in a person’s life.

“Boy would only go for his training after school on his own and come home without asking for help from me to pick him up.”

After getting his Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia results and receiving offers to further his tertiary education at public universities, Mohamad Saifuddin decided that he wanted to become a full-time athlete.

“As a parent, I could have told him to forget about sports and get a degree with a good paying job, but I knew then that his heart was set on representing the country one day.

“So I told him to go for his dream and give it his all as I knew he could do it,” said Ishak, who sold burgers for 32 years before retiring in 2017.

That decision all those years ago paid off for Mohamad Saifuddin as he went on to represent Malaysia in various international sporting events, including the Paralympic Games in Brazil in 2016.

Ishak also said it is a family tradition to offer thanksgiving prayers each time Mohamad Saifuddin travels abroad on his sporting quest.

“All of us in the family will be glued to the television or our tablets watching and cheering for Boy each time he represents the country. We want him to do well and he always delivers,” he said.