BY OLIVIA CVETANOVSKI
25-year-old weightlifter, Malek Chamoun from Summer Hill is the first ever legally blind athlete to qualify for the Australian Commonwealth Games Team. The teams have not yet been confirmed and will be revealed by June, but the Australian Weightlifting Federation says there is no doubt he will make it.
Malek was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at the age of seven and was legally blind just eight years later. This rare infection is an inherited eye disease that causes severe vision impairment and often blindness.
Malek and his father George Chamoun, a former weightlifter, share a strong relationship and he is his main encouragement for what he has achieved today. “My dad had faith in me and gave me the confidence”. Not only is George his father, but also a coach and mentor. He literally is guiding his son to Gold.
This confident and focused young man feels he inspires others because of his impairment and believes he has a “responsibility to do his best and to inspire people”.
Professional weightlifting, just like any other sport requires skill, and in particular the ability to focus on a point to balance and lift the weights. George says, “I tried it myself and it is definitely difficult. You need a lot of balance, you need to see what you’re doing”. Without the benefit of sight, Malek uses his sense of hearing and touch to balance himself.
Malek plans on having a custom made green and gold cane especially for the games.
“Yeah I can picture myself standing on the podium, the first games, go for a medal and I’m going for the shiniest of all medals, the Gold.” Malek laughs.