All is set for the first powerlifting continental competition of the year with the World Para Powerlifting European Open Championships set to get underway in Berck-Sur-Mer, France, on 25 May.
The event will run until 29 May and feature a total of 173 athletes from 33 countries who aim to win one of the 60 medals up for grabs across 20 events.
Berck-Sur-Mer 2018 is also an important step on the qualification pathway for all powerlifters hoping to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Paralympic and world champions will take part in the competition.
Home favourite, Paralympic and world champion Souhad Ghazouani will be the woman-to-beat in the up to 73kg. The 35-year-old aims to win her third successive European title.
Four years ago in Alexin, Russia, Ghazouani also set the current world record of 150kg in the category.
“This is a big unique opportunity because it will allow many people who I know to come and watch me compete,” she said. “Berck-Sur-Mer is only an hour from my home commune, Saint-Saulve, so it is a mini-trip to get there. I hope to set a new world record.”
It will be impossible for her opponents to beat her if she is in top form, even for Morocco´s Sanae Soubane, who ended sixth at last year´s World Championships in Mexico City.
Another big name will be that of Great Britain´s 2014 world champion Ali Jawad. The 29-year-old returned to competition at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games after missing out Mexico City 2017 due to his longest Crohn’s flare up since being diagnosed with the disease in 2009.
Now he is targeting success at the Europeans. “Even though my absence at international competitions could be seen as a negative, the time off made me reassess how I tackled my health in the past,” said Jawad, who will take part in the men's up to 54kg.
Great Britain will be hopeful of further success in the women's up to 45kg through Zoe Newson. “The only difference I found with myself between 2015 and 2018 is that I’m older. Now, I have notice that I have to take care of my body much more than few years ago,” she said.
“I attend to the physio at least once every week to prevent any potential damage.”
An epic showdown is expected in the women’s up to 50kg with Rio 2016 gold medallists Nazmiye Muratli of Turkey and Lidiia Soloviova of Ukraine facing each other.
It will be the first time in eight years that the two rivals meet at a major competition as Muratli decided to move up one category ahead of Berck-Sur-Mer 2018.
The last time they competed against each other was in the up to 40kg at the 2010 World Championships, with Muratli taking gold and Soloviova silver.
It will also be interesting to watch Poland's Marzena Zieba competing in the women’s over 86kg.
The 28-year-old seeks to retain the European title she won in 2015, motivated after taking silver at Rio 2016. She also ended fifth at Mexico City 2017, her best performance at a World Championships so far.
Another event to keep an eye on will be the men’s up to 59kg with a Latin American showdown between Chile's Juan Carlos Garrido and Brazil's Bruno Carra.
Their most memorable face-off came at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games, with Garrido taking gold ahead of Carra.
Berck-sur-Mer 2018 will be the third European Open Championships since 2013, when the competition returned to the calendar in Alexin, Russia, after a six year hiatus.
All events will be streamed live on World Para Powerlifting's website and Facebook page.
Live results and a full competition schedule will be available on Berck-Sur-Mer 2018's website, where you can also find more information about the Championships.