Despite finishing a footrace behind all the other competitors, a Malaysian schoolboy’s determination to complete it has helped him finish first in the hearts of many who have viewed his effort online.
In a video that has been viewed more than 650,000 times, 11-year-old Aqil Naufal Zahiran can be seen limbering up at the starting line for the 100m race with two crutches.
He was taking part at the school athletic championships for special education students in Jerantut, Pahang.
While the other four competitors sprint ahead and are soon out of the frame, Aqil can be seen making steady strides, while a woman later identified as his teacher is seen running alongside him, just off the track.
The elder of two siblings, Aqil told Malaysian daily Harian Metro that he lost his leg in 2015 after contracting a bacterial infection.
Admitting to feeling nervous before the race last Wednesday because he felt many eyes were on him at the meet, the student said he managed to complete four days of training and was determined to finish the race.
“I was taking part for the first time, and embarassed, standing next to the other competitors. But I continued even though my trousers nearly fell off because I thought that no matter what happens, I wanted to finish the run,” he said. “Even when my friends were already far in front.”
Aqil added he was relieved to reach the finish line. “I felt happy, especially when my teacher came to congratulate me,” he said.
His teacher who invited him to participate, Intan Zulaikha Jusoh, said she was moved and proud of her student.
“Before the race, I told him I wouldn’t force him to win or finish the race if he was tired or in pain,” she said. “I didn’t expect him to compete to his fullest and reach the finish line, that made me proud of his spirit.”
She added that she was running alongside him so that he would not feel as if he were running alone.
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While he spends more of his time playing football, Aqil said he would not turn down the chance to join another footrace.
Some who viewed the video commented that they were moved by Aqil’s efforts.
“Give him a prize too,” wrote a TikTok user. “He deserves to be celebrated and valued.”
A teacher who said she was at the athletics competition commented: “When I saw him run, I immediately clapped my hands in support, but my eyes welled up first.”
Those online also praised Ms Intan for her act of encouragement.
“The teacher was the one who moved me,” wrote TikTok user Syakir Fairus. “As difficult as this life is, when there is someone to push you, there will always be a way.”