Pakistani athlete becomes Asia's first qualified disabled paragliding pilot

A road accident, while serving in the Pakistan Armed Forces, rendered Ajmal Samuel a paraplegic at the age of 21

By
Web Desk
Ajmal Samuel, a Hong Kong-based special athlete of Pakistani origin, pilots his paraglider. — Supplied
Ajmal Samuel, a Hong Kong-based special athlete of Pakistani origin, pilots his paraglider. — Supplied

HONG KONG: Ajmal Samuel, a Pakistani athlete, prominent entrepreneur, and a Pakistan Armed Forces veteran has recently made history by becoming the first qualified disabled (adaptive) paragliding pilot in Hong Kong and Asia, marking a courageous and inspiring achievement.

According to a handout, Ajmal, a former national-level rowing athlete from Hong Kong, completed his rigorous training in South Africa's Wilderness, located in the Western Cape region.

He embarked on his journey to South Africa in February 2024 with a singular goal: to fulfil his dream of flying again, despite sustaining a spinal injury in 1987 during his service as a young army officer.

With a passion for adventure and a determined spirit, Ajmal sought training under the expert guidance of Matthew Van Zyl, a renowned paragliding instructor based in Cape Town.

Ajmal Samuel, a Hong Kong-based special athlete of Pakistani origin, takes instructions from his paragliding trainer Matthew Van Zyl. — Supplied
Ajmal Samuel, a Hong Kong-based special athlete of Pakistani origin, takes instructions from his paragliding trainer Matthew Van Zyl. — Supplied

Van Zyl is not only a certified paragliding instructor but also holds accreditation for instructing individuals with disabilities. Ajmal's training under Matthew’s guidance will be the subject of a special documentary, filmed during his intensive training programme, to be released later this year, which marks a significant milestone not only for himself but also for the adaptive paragliding community.

Ajmal is not only Matthew'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 and as a dramatic finale to the documentary, Ajmal is now setting himself the challenge of jumping from 5,895 meters-high Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, the very first disabled pilot to attempt the world-record feat.

Before his injury, Ajmal was a qualified fixed-wing glider pilot during his tenure in the armed forces. Despite the challenges he faced, his passion for flight never waned. Becoming a qualified adaptive paragliding pilot has been the realisation of a lifelong dream for Ajmal, who has demonstrated remarkable resilience and determination throughout his journey.

“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 to look to aviation as a sport that they can participate in as much as able-bodied people.”

Ajmal's achievement serves as an inspiration to individuals worldwide, showcasing the power of perseverance and the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. His historic accomplishment highlights the possibilities that exist for individuals with disabilities in the realm of extreme adventure sports.

Ajmal Samuel, a Hong Kong-based special athlete of Pakistani origin, pilots his paraglider. — Supplied
Ajmal Samuel, a Hong Kong-based special athlete of Pakistani origin, pilots his paraglider. — Supplied

After a road accident, while serving in the Pakistan Armed Forces, rendered him a paraplegic at the age of 21, Ajmal believed that was the end of an active and sporting lifestyle. 

Confined to a wheelchair and struggling to be optimistic about the future, it was the support and love of family, friends, and doctors that motivated him to not give up. With hard work and determination, he began to reshape his life.

First, professionally, Ajmal can now take pride that he is the Founder and CEO of his own financial technology business, OCTO3 Group Holdings Limited, a Hong Kong-headquartered financial technology and infrastructure provider that specialises in payments and clearing house systems.

Then, he focused on his fitness and health to the point that he now happily calls himself a national-level endurance athlete, focusing in particular on rowing, hand-cycling, and triathlons.

Ajmal is a role model giving confidence to others that even a wheelchair is not a hindrance in pursuing dreams, professional or personal.