I was surprised.
Jayapura, Papua (ANTARA) - “If you are able to become a great athlete, you can go anywhere for free. In fact, you get paid instead.”

These words -- conveyed by her mother – motivated Nina Gusmita to become an athlete after she lost her right leg in an accident.

Gusmita said she had a great passion for sports, especially volleyball, since she was little, as her mother was a former athlete in the sport.

An accident in 2016 when she was on her way home after volleyball practice changed her life.

"I was 18 years old then. At that time, I was about to face the national exam for senior high school students," she said.

However, Gusmita said losing her leg did not daunt her as she continued to receive a lot of support from her parents.

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Gusmita said her mother understood her sports dream and encouraged her to continue to excel despite her altered physical condition.

Fortunately, a friend of Gusmita’s mother who played for the National Paralympic Committee (NPC) of North Sumatra province also supported and encouraged her.

The head of the North Sumatra NPC visited her when she was being treated at the hospital and asked her to become a para-athlete for the province.

"At the moment, my mother said, 'It is alright. Although the situation is different, you can still make achievement’. It made me excited as I still have the opportunity to make my dream come true," Gusmita recalled.

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Switching sports

With strong determination, the daughter of Rusmianto and Kasmiati Ari continued to focus on her recovery so that she could immediately pursue her dream of making many accomplishments in sports.

After seven months of recovery, she decided to start practice.

When she first joined the NPC in 2016, Gusmita said she tried discus throw in athletics. However, she soon switched to sitting volleyball in mid-2017 since the sport lacked players, she added.

At the time, the sitting volleyball team was preparing for the ASEAN Para Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. However, the women’s event of the sport was not contested due to a shortage of participating countries, Gusmita said.

The following year, they competed at the 2018 Asian Para Games in Jakarta-Palembang, Indonesia, but the team lost to Japan while contesting the bronze medal.

In 2019, Gusmita, the eldest of three siblings, began training for the 2020 ASEAN Para Games in the Philippines. However, the sporting event was canceled due to COVID-19.

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The 23-year-old, who was born in Medan city, North Sumatra province on August 8, said that before taking part in the 2018 Asian Para Games, she was asked to participate in wheelchair racing.

However, she was not interested at the time.

It was only after realizing that sitting volleyball often got canceled due to a lack of participants that she finally decided to establish herself in wheelchair racing and joined national training.

Currently, she is steady to pursue her dream in the sport.

Winning three medals and breaking national records at the XVI Papua National Paralympic Week (Peparnas) have only fueled her motivation further.

Gold hat-trick

Changing a sports specialty is certainly not a walk in the park -- especially switching from sitting volleyball to wheelchair racing, which belong to different disciplines.

Gusmita admitted that at first, she had difficulties in wheelchair racing.

She needed time to adjust to the sport after playing sitting volleyball for some time.

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Eventually, she found a similarity between the two sports as both of them relied on the strength of the athlete’s arms, she said.

"Thus, I consider it is easy to shift from sitting volleyball to wheelchair racing. Still, I have to adapt," she remarked.

In addition, the personal competition is tighter in wheelchair racing as it is played individually, while in sitting volleyball, the participants have to play as a team, Gusmita said.

Finally, at the XVI Papua Peparnas, the North Sumatra athlete reaped outstanding results.

She bagged gold medals in the three events she participated in at the four-yearly national sporting event for people with disabilities.

She also managed to break national records in the 100, 200, and 400 meters events in the women's T54 class.

The T54 class is contested by athletes who have normal arm function and normal or limited trunk function, without any leg function.

In the women's 100 meters T54 event, Gusmita finished the race in 18.52 seconds, shattering Dina Rulina's national record of 21.92 seconds at the 2016 West Java Peparnas.

She clocked 33.44 seconds in the women's 200 meters T54 event, beating the national record of 36.69 seconds set by Mulyani from South Kalimantan at the 2016 West Java Peparnas.

Meanwhile, in the women's 400 meters T54 event, she set a new national record of 1 minute 07.49 seconds.

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2024 Paris Paralympics

Although this was her debut at the national event, the Bina Guna College of Sports and Health student’s achievements were brilliant.

She was awarded the gold medal for the 200 meters T54 wheelchair racing event in person by the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs, Mahfud MD.

She said she did not expect the honor. Still, she was very proud of the award.

"Initially, I wanted my coach to put the medal on me. However, he told me there was a minister who would give the medal to me. I was surprised," she admitted.

Her success was also lauded by Youth and Sports Minister Zainudin Amali who also watched the final race in the wheelchair racing event at the Lukas Enembe Stadium, Jayapura district on November 12, 2021.

After snatching three gold medals and smashing national records, Gusmita said XVI Papua Peparnas was not her last goal as she dreams of participating in the 2024 Paris Paralympics.

Hence, she will continue to prepare to win a ticket to the prestigious international event.

After the national event, Gusmita will join national training in Solo city, Central Java province, thus she will not return to her hometown for some time.

However, she said she believes that the prayers of her parents will accompany her on each step of her journey to achieving higher accomplishments.

Gusmita is an inspiration for many other people with disabilities for not getting discouraged and staying strong in life.

She is proof that disabilities cannot prevent anyone from achieving their dreams and success.

The dedicated para-athletes and the XVI Papua Peparnas have shown this with their medals and outstanding debuts.

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Translator: Zuhdiar Laeis, Uyu Liman
Editor: Fardah Assegaf
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