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When he first saw a group of people practicing martial arts near his house, Muhammad Zulfikri had no idea it was the beginning of a journey that would take him on a medal-winning tour around the world.

Zul, now aged 18 years old, immediately asked his parents to sign him up for karate lessons.

Eight years later the home he shares with his parents in Indonesia’s Riau province is overflowing with medals and trophies won from international tournaments.

"At first I saw someone doing karate exercises near from my house, and that’s why I got interested in karate,” he said. “The next day my parents registered me.”

In 2009 Zul was invited to join RAPP’s Future Athlete Training Center (PPLAMD), which helps promising young athletes with their training. Zul’s father has worked for RAPP for 20 years, though the program is also open to children from the wider community as part of APRIL’s community development commitment.

Zul’s first international tournament was the Basel Open Masters 2013, in Switzerland. “My effort wasn’t in vain, I got a bronze medal," Zul said.

His biggest challenge was the Shoto Asean-Japan tournament in Vietnam in December 2016, where he competed against more than 120 athletes from Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Japan. “I’m pleased to say I reached the top place and earned the gold medal,” he said.

PPLAMD was set up by RAPP in 2007 to help promising young athletes from the local community in three of the most popular sports: karate, badminton and tennis. Today it helps train 140 athletes, who won a total of 45 medals between them at domestic and international tournaments in the first six months of 2017 alone.

The support he has received from PPLAMD has been invaluable, said Zul. "There is a lot of support that is given by PPLAMD to the athletes, such as training facilities and equipment, so that we can continue to improve our skills.”

PPLAMD also helps register athletes to compete in international events. “It's great to be able to compete abroad often, because we can learn new techniques from the overseas athletes, and the knowledge can be passed on to our friends here.”

Zulfikri is grateful for the opportunity that RAPP has given him through the training centre. "I am very proud to be a part of PPLAMD,” he said.

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