The women’s up to 61kg category was one of the most highly expected Para powerlifting events at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and the final went above and beyond expectations.
Mexico’s Amalia Perez took her country’s first gold in Tokyo in her final 131kg-attempt on Saturday (28 August) to reach her fourth consecutive Paralympic title in a nail-biting competition.
The day provided plenty of highlights as Bonnie Bunyau Gustin took Malaysia's first-ever Para powerlifting gold in the men's up to 72kg, China's Tan Yujiao successfully defending her Paralympic title in the women's up to 67kg and Iran's Roohallah Rostami taking his first Paralympic gold in the men's up to 80kg.
Perez was in the lead after the second round with 126kg but dropped to fourth place before her final attempt behind Egypt’s Fatma Korany, Uzbekistan’s Ruza Kuzieva and the three-time Paralympic champion Lucy Ejike from Nigeria.
It was all or nothing for the Mexican who raised the bar to 131kg for the title. Ejike failed in her final attempt of 135kg and had to settle for bronze (130kg) behind Kuzieva (130kg but lower body weight) who made her Paralympic debut in Japan.
For Perez the podium at Tokyo 2020 was the sixth in her career.
“What was going through my mind was that my last lift had to be perfect. I had some technical errors in my other two lifts, but I knew for my final lift it had to be perfect for the judges,” the four-time Paralympic gold medallist said.
“This is my sixth medal, and my fourth gold, but since these Games were the most desired of all for me, I will put this medal in first place.”
Bonnie Gustin, the star
The opening event of the day, the men’s up to 72kg, was completely dominated by Malaysia’s Bonnie Bunyau Gustin. The 22-year-old star who shocked the Para powerlifting world at the Nur-Sultan 2019 World Championships cruised to victory with a Paralympic record of 228kg.
Gustin took the lead in his first 217kg-attempt and only failed in his fourth “power lift” of 231kg trying to break his own world record.
The other podium positions reserved some surprises as favourites like China’s Hu Peng, Nigeria’s Nnamdi Innocent and Iraq’s Rasool Mohsin failed their three attempts.
Egypt’s Mahmoud Attia bagged the silver (191kg) and Great Britain’s Micky Yule the bronze (182kg).
“I’m very happy. This is my first Paralympics and winning this medal was a dream for me,” Gustin said after taking Malaysia’s first-ever powerlifting gold.
“I know world championships are coming up, but first I want to go home and rest for a while and enjoy my success.”
Second gold for Yujiao, first for Rostami
Tan Yujiao took her second-straight Paralympic gold after completing three clean lifts in the women’s up to 67kg event, including a third that weighed in it at 133kg.
“This whole five-year process since Rio 2016 was very difficult for me," she said. “In 2019 at the World Championships in Kazakhstan I tore a muscle in my shoulder, and I’ve had to bury the pain through my training and keep focused on my goals, and I was able to once again achieve my goals.”
Runner-up to Tan was Egypt's 47-year-old Fatma Omar, who matched Perez’s record-setting mark of six Paralympic medals (four gold and two silver).
Nigeria's Olaitan Ibrahim reached the podium in third (119kg).
Nur-Sultan 2019 world champion Roohallah Rostami was under no threat in the men's up to 80kg taking the lead right in his first lift of 225kg. He improved to 228kg and finally 234kg to secure his first Paralympic gold.
The Iranian returned for the power lift in an attempt to break his own world record but did not manage to raise the bar to 242kg.
China's Gu Xiaofei settled for the silver medal for the second Games in a row with 215kg while Mohamed Elelfat took another medal for Egypt with bronze (212kg).
“I missed getting gold at the London 2012 Paralympic Games so I’m happy that I was able to achieve it here in Tokyo,” Rostami said. "I’m very happy to be the athlete who gets the first gold medal for Iran at Tokyo 2020 and I thank god for that”
The penultimate day of the Para powerlifting programme will see Paralympic champions crowned in the men's up to 88kg, women's up to 73kg, women's up to 79kg and men's up to 97kg categories.
Complete schedule and results are available on the Tokyo 2020 page on Paralympic.org.