Disabled Athlete to Hand-Cycle the Length of Pakistan

Ajmal Samuel is a man who doesn’t let a little thing like not having the use of his legs prevent him from achieving his goals. The paraplegic athlete has set a big goal for 2020, with plans to travel the length of Pakistan on a hand cycle. A trip that will cover hundreds of miles and see him crossing the Himalaya and Karakoram mountain ranges while en route.

Samuel’s story is an interesting and inspiring one. Back in the 1980s, he joined the Pakistani military when he was 23 years old, but a year later was in a bad car accident. As a result of that accident he lost the use of his legs and found himself confined to a wheelchair. As you would expect, that was a life-altering moment, but one that he didn’t let define him. He went on to be a successful member of society, working hard and achieving a lot throughout his career.

At one point, he decided to move to Hong Kong to join his parents, who had relocated to the city a few years earlier. For a time, he struggled to find work however, as employers were reluctant to hire a Pakistani man in a wheelchair. Eventually, someone gave him a chance and he soon found himself working his way up the corporate ladder and even getting recruited by Silicon Valley start-ups.

While his professional life was going well, in his personal life he was suffering. In order to get through the day, he was using a mixture of prescription drugs designed to help him manage the pain. This left him addicted to morphine and other substances as he combatted physical discomfort nearly every waking hour of his life. Samuel came to recognize his addiction however and battled back against it, replacing his need for painkillers with an active lifestyle instead. Now, he exercises, rows, hand-cycles, and gets outside regularly, all of which have helped him kick his reliance on medications and have given him an active and adventurous life.

Now, he want to demonstrate to other Pakistanis that being disabled doesn’t mean that they can’t still be active too. To do that, he often gives motivational talks and promotes the idea that exercise and movement can make for a better life. He hopes that his journey by hand cycle across his native country will help to inspire and educate others as to the possibilities that they have locked inside of them.

The plan is to get underway in August, provided the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic have passed. He’ll cover hundreds of miles going up and over the Himalaya while en route, making this an extreme challenge to say the least. But, it isn’t the first time that Samuel has embarked on a long distance journey. He’s already completed a 2500 km (1553 miles) hand-cycle journey across China. He’s also taken part in long-distance rowing events, including a race that circles around Hong Kong. Those kinds of activities have prepared him for the difficulties he faces, although he knows that crossing the big mountains is going to take all of his strength, determination, and focus.

You can read more about Ajmal’s story in this article from the South China Morning Post.