Sports & Games

Ajmal Samuel: The First Qualified Disabled Paragliding Pilot in Asia from Pakistan

Ajmal Samuel, a Hong Kong-based businessman and special athlete of Pakistani origin, has made history by becoming the first qualified disabled paragliding pilot in the entire Asian continent. This achievement is a testament to his resilience, determination, and passion for flight, which remained undeterred despite sustaining a spinal injury in 1987 during his service as a young army officer.

Born and raised in Pakistan, Ajmal served in the Pakistan Armed Forces where he was a qualified fixed-wing glider pilot. His life took a dramatic turn when he sustained a spinal injury, but his passion for flight never waned. Instead, it fueled his determination to fly again, leading him to become a thriving entrepreneur and a national-level rowing athlete in Hong Kong.

In February 2024, Ajmal embarked on a journey to South Africa’s Wilderness, located in the Western Cape region, with a singular goal: to fulfil his dream of flying again. He sought training under the expert guidance of Matthew Van Zyl, a renowned paragliding instructor based in Cape Town. Van Zyl, who holds accreditation for instructing individuals with disabilities, became a pivotal figure in Ajmal’s journey.

Ajmal’s rigorous training under Van Zyl’s guidance will be the subject of a special documentary, filmed during his intensive training programme. The documentary, set to be released later this year, marks a significant milestone not only for Ajmal but also for the adaptive paragliding community.

Ajmal is not only Van Zyl’s first adaptive paragliding student but also the first person with a disability to achieve full qualification as a solo paragliding pilot on both the African and Asian continents. Fresh from qualifying for his pilot’s licence, Ajmal is now setting himself the challenge of jumping from 5,895 meters-high Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. If successful, he will be the very first disabled pilot to attempt this world-record feat.

Ajmal’s story is not just about personal achievement. It is about breaking barriers and changing perceptions about what disabled individuals can achieve. He hopes that his journey will inspire the disabled community in Asia to look to aviation as a sport that they can participate in as much as able-bodied people.

“I have always wanted to participate in aviation sports in Hong Kong and Asia and introduce them to the disabled community in the region, but this has been hampered by the lack of both facilities and awareness in this part of the world,” explained Ajmal. “I hope my documentary, and hopefully the setting of a new world record in an extreme sport like paragliding by a Hong Kong-based disabled person, will help educate and inspire the disabled community in Asia."

Ajmal’s journey exemplifies the indomitable spirit of human resilience and determination. His accomplishments light the way for disabled individuals across Asia, demonstrating that there are truly no limits to what one can achieve.

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