Marzena Zieba kicked off her year in the best possible way as she successfully defended her continental title. The Polish powerlifter won the women’s over 86kg at the World Para Powerlifting European Open Championships in Berck-sur-Mer, France, with a 132kg lift.
“This is great, I am feeling amazing and very happy now,” said Rio 2016 silver medallist Zieba.
“It is very hard to achieve these results and they are very important to reach my best possible form ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.”
The Netherlands’ Paralympic bronze medallist Melaica Tuinfort (118kg) picked up silver while Israel’s Polina Katsman (113kg) grabbed bronze.
Two sets of medals are awarded in each event at the Championships. The top three powerlifters overall receive gold, silver and bronze. As well as that, the top three European powerlifters also win medals for being the best in their continent.
In the overall podium, Mexico’s three-time Paralympic medallist Perla Barcenas (136kg) secured gold ahead of Zieba and Tuinfort.
Men’s up to 88kg
The loud home crowd celebrated as they saw Rafik Arabat winning with a 196kg lift. The French, who took bronze at the 2015 Europeans, even tried to break the continental record of 200kg set by Azerbaijan’s Gunduz Ismayilov in 2014 but failed twice to lift 201kg.
“I am very happy to have won gold in front of my people but a bit disappointed I could not break the European record,” said Arabat. “In my first try, my arms were not on the same level. And I was powerless on my second attempt.
“Now I will start training hard towards the 2019 World Championships and 2020 Paralympics.”
Finland’s Janne Piipponen (176kg) and Hungary’s Sedric Watchou Kouokam (172kg) completed the European podium.
Arabat also ended first in the overall podium, this time followed by Brazil’s Evanio Da Silva (195kg) in a tight battle, and Uzbekistan’s Farhod Umirzakov (180kg).
Men’s up to 80kg
A shoulder injury did not prevent Gkremislav Moysiadis from taking his second European title four years after winning his first. The Greek lifted 186kg, just 1kg more than Ukrainian Yurii Babynets who won silver.
“I am very pleased with myself. Due to my injury I did not expect the competition to go as well as it did,” four-time Paralympian Moysiadis said. “I am very happy. Now I want to qualify for Tokyo 2020.”
Julien Avom Mbume (169kg) collected bronze. After the medals ceremony, the Frenchman spent the next 10 minutes with several fans who wanted a photo with their hero.
In the overall podium, Moysiadis and Babynets finished ahead of Morocco’s Abderrahim El Ammari (176kg).
Women’s up to 86kg
Louise Sugden delivered a sensational performance to seal her first major international title in Berck-sur-Mer. The Brit progressed from 100kg to 104kg in the first two rounds, before clearing the bar at 108kg in her third and last attempt.
“I am delighted; I genuinely did not come to this competition expecting to come away with gold,” Sugden said. “But I think we played really well tactically. I am ecstatic. I am going out with my family who have come over and supported me. Then I will get back to training.”
Spaniard Maria Alcoba Membrilla came in second following a 95kg lift. “My goal was to lift 95kg, did not think about winning a medal. But people back home believed in me,” she said.
“I could not contain my tears when climbing onto the podium. It has been tough with me, have to co-ordinate my trainings with activities with my kids. Now I want to celebrate. I will probably go and see the seal colony here in Berck-Sur-Mer.”
Azerbaijan’s Aytan Baghirova (52kg) finished in third place.
The overall podium was topped by Mexico’s two-time Paralympic bronze medallist Catalina Diaz Vilchis (115kg), who was followed by Brazil’s Tayana Medeiros (109kg). Sugden took bronze.
The European Open Championships conclude on Tuesday (29 May) with the men’s up to 97kg, up to 107kg and over 107kg events.
All events are streamed live on World Para Powerlifting's website and Facebook page.
Live results and a full competition schedule is available on Berck-Sur-Mer 2018’s website.