THE sky is the limit for Syarifah Nadiah Wafa Syed Mohd Thalal Wafa, 28, who put Malaysia on the map when she beat 91 participants to top the Nepal Open International Paragliding 2017 competition in Sirkot, Nepal, in October.
The youngest competitor, Syarifah bagged three gold and one bronze.
She did not expect to beat other paragliders as the competition was the first event she had participated in, despite her three years of experience in the sport.
“I’ve always dreamt of participating in a paragliding competition at the international level. But, I could only follow and watch my peers flying in Indonesia and Dubai.
“It was my tutor who asked me to try my luck in the Nepal Open.
“I was excited because this was my chance to fly in another country. At the same time, I was nervous.
“I always thought to myself: ‘What if I didn’t win?’ (But, I thought) it would be a good experience that I could learn from,” said the fourth of five siblings.
Her dream came true when she was selected for the women’s category only several days before the competition, held from Oct 2 to 6.
“I trained in Nepal for only three days before the competition started. I could not train in Malaysia because of the weather.
“There was no wind and it was always raining. I never train if it’s raining.”
Apart from last-minute training, she had to deal with a knee injury, but that did not deter her from competing.
She completed each round in the Accuracy and Cross Country categories.
Syarifah’s next mission is to train harder and go for it again at the Asian Games in Indonesia next year.
Her goal is to bring the gold medal home and, at the same time, inspire women to participate in this extreme sport.
“Some people say that paragliding is not suitable for women because it’s an extreme sport, but to me, anyone can have fun with it.
“It is not expensive. The paragliding equipment can last for three years.
“I know some women are afraid to take up this sport because it is dangerous. Some are afraid of heights.
“But, believe me, it is fun,” said Syarifah, a member of the Paragliding Bureau at the Malaysian Sports Aviation Federation.