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FEATURES

Autistic Child Shows Off Cycling Prowess

18/02/2021 12:44 PM

By Kurniawati Kamarudin

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) – At first glance, 12-year-old Ahmad Uzair Ahmad Syauqi looks like any other boy at the brink of adolescence.  

His favourite sport is cycling and since embarking on this activity in 2019, he has covered a distance of about 7,000 kilometres.

He is no ordinary cyclist though. In fact, he is the youngest Malaysian to have earned the Super Randonneur title, which is an amazing feat considering that Ahmad Uzair is an autistic child.

Randonneuring is a branch of non-competitive timed long-distance cycling that is governed by the Paris-based Audax Club Parisien. To have a crack at winning the Super Randonneur title, a rider must complete a series of cycling events known as Brevet de Randonneurs Mondiaux (BRM) which, in Malaysia, is organised by Audax Randonneurs Malaysia.


Ahmad Uzair with Syed Azrol Rahimi. -- Photo courtesy of Syed Szrol Rahimi bin Syed Abdul Rahim

Ahmad Uzair earned the title last year by successfully completing the BRMs in one season within the time frame set by international standards. He completed BRM200 (200-kilometre event) within 13.5 hours, BRM300 in 20 hours, BRM400 in 27 hours and BRM600 in 40 hours.

For a boy his age, Ahmad Uzair’s endurance and energy levels are extraordinary. And, it is hard to believe that this third child of Munirah Hanim Ahmad Jahudi and Ahmad Syauqi Ahmad Said, both 38, is autistic.   

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a broad range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and non-verbal communication.

 

INTEREST IN CYCLING


Ahmad Uzair in action during one of the BRM events. -- Photo courtesy of Syed Szrol Rahimi bin Syed Abdul Rahim

Ahmad Uzair was diagnosed with autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder when he was two years old.

It is not easy to take care of an autistic child like Ahmad Uzair who is prone to throwing tantrums and being hyperactive at night.

His mother Munirah Hanim, who is an advisor to a support group for autism awareness and well-being, said she and her husband always maintain a positive outlook and keep exploring activities that their four children aged between 13 and nine, including Ahmad Uzair, can participate in.  

They tried tennis and swimming but when their special child showed no interest in these activities, they switched to cycling. For Ahmad Uzair, it was a case of “love at first ride”. It was obvious he truly enjoyed cycling. His face radiated with joy and he seemed like a bird that was flying freely.


Ahmad Uzair and his support team at the Sepang racing circuit. -- Photo courtesy of Syed Szrol Rahimi bin Syed Abdul Rahim

His cycling jaunts started with six-km rides around their neighbourhood in Damansara. Then it stretched to 15 km and before long the boy was participating in 30-km and 77-km events.

According to Munirah Hanim, after completing the 77-km event, Ahmad Uzair did not look tired at all and was still energetic.

“This gave us the courage to take him on a 150-km interstate cycling expedition from Seremban to Melaka. After that event, he participated in the BRMs organised by Audax Randonneurs Malaysia,” she told Bernama.

Whenever he participates in a long-distance cycling event, Ahmad Uzair is accompanied by his father and five of the latter’s friends, who have formed a support group called Cycle. Uzair. Cycle, to take care of his safety and other needs.

 

CYCLING THERAPY


Ahmad Uzair with his Cycle.Uzair.Cycle team members.-- Photo courtesy of Syed Szrol Rahimi bin Syed Abdul Rahim

As far as Munirah Hanim is concerned, cycling is probably the best thing that happened to her special son.

“We have been observing so many changes in him… his sleeping pattern is more regular now and he understands the instructions given to him. He can also differentiate left from right. Even the doctor treating him has said that he is more focused now,” she said, adding that her son has started to learn to read too.

“Looking back, I would never have thought that he would learn to read because we knew it was hard for him to focus his attention on anything. It is the combination of balance and focus whilst cycling that brought about the changes in him.”

She urged parents with autistic children to explore their interests and join them in their favourites activities so that they do not get bored.

She said encouraging autistic children to pursue their interests will bring about positive changes to their behaviour and help them to develop their abilities, as well as bring them closer to their families.

 

IMPRESSIVE


Ahmad Uzair and his support team members taking a break during a cycling event. -- Photo courtesy of Syed Szrol Rahimi bin Syed Abdul Rahim

Ahmad Uzair’s energy and cycling prowess have never failed to impress the adults around him.

Syed Azrol Rahimi Syed Abdul Rahim, 37, a member of the Cycle. Uzair. Cycle team, described Ahmad Uzair’s Super Randonneur title victory as an outstanding achievement.

“Even adults may not have the capability… this is because each of the (BRM) events requires different tactical planning and strategies in order to get to the finishing line.

“Our focus during these events was on Uzair… we only wanted the best for him,” said the IT executive.

Syed Azrol Rahimi said each cycling event posed specific challenges not only to Ahmad Uzair but the members of his support team as well as they had to understand his needs while he was cycling, particularly in the tactical aspect as they had to make sure that their ace cyclist could maintain his energy and momentum until he reaches the finishing line.

“Whilst doing the BRM200 event, which took us on the Nilai-Port Dickson-Morib-Dengkil-Nilai route, I found that after cycling more than 70 km non-stop, Uzair still seemed energetic. However, in order to enable him to maintain his energy, we stopped for a while so that he could eat and rest before continuing.

“But the problem with Uzair is that he only likes to eat bread, mashed potato and a few other food items. He is also not good at sipping water whilst cycling,” he added.

 

MOST CHALLENGING 


Ahmad Uzair with his support team members after completing a BRM event. -- Photo courtesy of Syed Szrol Rahimi bin Syed Abdul Rahim

The most challenging ride for Ahmad Uzair and his support team was the 300 km event that started in Pulau Pangkor and took them to Ipoh, Taiping, Manjung and Sitiawan before ending in Pulau Pangkor.

“It was this event that enabled us to identify Uzair’s actual capacity,” said Syed Azrol Rahimi, adding that after completing 270 km, Ahmad Uzair looked visibly exhausted and appeared dispirited.

“He wanted to rest and take a nap but we had to step in and give him moral support so that he could complete the 300-km event.

“Once he reached the finishing line, he immediately went into his mother’s car to take a nap. For the 400-km event, we made sure we stopped after completing the first 270 km so that Uzair could take a rest,” he said.

Syed Azrol Rahimi said the experience gained during the first few BRM events made it easier for them to do the tactical planning for the 400-km and 600-km events.

He also said that Ahmad Uzair was supposed to have entered the Malaysia Book of Records last year for being the Youngest Autistic Super Randonneur but it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ahmad Uzair’s support team’s next target is to get their prized cyclist to participate in the prestigious Audax Paris-Brest-Paris event in 2023, which will require participants from all over the world with the Super Randonneur title to complete a 1,200-km course within 90 hours.  

“I hope the pandemic will end soon so that the event will take place as scheduled. We also hope to start training Uzair soon,” added Syed Azrol Rahimi.  

 

Translated by Rema Nambiar

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