“Winning a gold medal in Russia is vital to me, as I know it will prove that I can still compete at the highest level and it will act as a good landmark in preparation for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games."
With the 2013 IPC Powerlifting Open European Championships in Aleksin, Russia ready to kick off on Wednesday (21 May,) one nation expecting a strong showing from their athletes is France.
Despite only having four of the 137 lifters in Aleksin, France will be sending strong medal hopefuls in Souhad Ghazouani and Patrick Ardon, who have so far had differing careers.
Ghazouni, who has been lifting weights since the age of six, has put together a glittering resume that includes a gold medal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and a world championship gold that she won back in 2010 at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where she broke the world record in the -60kg category.
As for Ardon, in his first competitive outing at the 2012 Paralympics, he missed out on a medal after a respectable sixth-place finish in the -48kg weight class.
With the change in IPC Powerlifting’s weight-class structure, Ghazouani and Ardon will compete in the women’s -73kg and men’s -49kg classes, respectively, in Aleksin.
For Ardon, the majority of his rivals who finished above him in London will not be present, which have given him confidence heading into the event that he can claim a medal for his country.
He said: “The European level of powerlifting is very interesting as the likes of Yakubu Adesokan and Taha Abdelmagid, who won the gold and bronze medals, respectively, in my weight category at the London Paralympics, will not be competing.
“This gives me and some of the other athletes more of an opportunity to finish atop of the podium, so hopefully, if I can perform to the best of my ability, I can at least finish second and win a medal for France.”
The reason as to why Ardon, who has cerebral palsy, is targeting second place is due to the threat that is posed by Russia’s Vladimir Balynetc.
Balynetc will be the roared on by a partisan crowd at the European Championships, as he a Russian national, and after his silver medal success at London 2012, Ardon acknowledges his talent.
He said: “My biggest rival at this competition is without a doubt Balynetc; he is very strong for our weight class and performed greatly to claim the silver medal in London.”
Ghazouni, on the other hand, is the woman to beat in the -73kg weight class and she will enter the competition as the hot favourite.
Due to the commanding status that she has in her weight division, Ghazouni is targeting a gold medal in the European Championships so that she can prove her dominance again.
She said: “Winning a gold medal in Russia is vital to me, as I know it will prove that I can still compete at the highest level and it will act as a good landmark in preparation for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
“Training for the competition has been going well so far, and as a result this has given me a lot of confidence as I feel I will be able to go in there and lift as much as I can.”
Click here for more information on the IPC Powerlifting Open European Championships, including how to watch them live online.