Bertha Fernandez causes upset as hosts dominate Bogota World Cup

One of Colombia's six gold medallists in season's opening event, Lima 2019 champion highlights female participation growth in the sport 08 Mar 2021
A woman lifting a bar on a bench press competition
Bertha Fernandez of Colombia competing in the women's up to 73 kg at the Bogota 2021 World Cup
ⒸGuillermo Legaria/Getty Images
By Filip Ozbolt | For World Para Powerlifting

Colombian athletes owned the stage on home soil winning six gold medals in the first World Cup of season from Friday to Sunday (5-7 March) in Bogota. 

Bertha Fernandez caused the biggest upset in the women’s up to 73kg category defeating European champion Sibel Cam of Turkey.

“I’m really happy with the result I achieved in Bogota. I have fulfilled my goals and gave my best”, said the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games champion. “We will keep on out preparations and this result gives me a confidence boost to keep improving to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics.”

Fernandez triumphed with a 110kg-lift in her last try. Georgia’s Nino Sabashvili took silver while Cam failed her three 125kg-attempts.

“I have mostly prepared for the World Cup in Bogota training at home. Virtual competitions also helped me to stay in shape”, emphasized Fernandez. “At the end of last year, the national team had a training camp and we showed at this competition in which kind of shape we are.”

Fernandez was the second Colombian female athlete to win a gold medal in Bogota after Cristina Poblador’s victory in the women’s up to 41kg category. 

Poblador made her international debut in 2018 and Fernandez in 2014. Both are examples of the growth in female participation in Para powerlifting. 

From Kuala Lumpur 2010 to Nur-Sultan 2019 there was 71.7 per cent increase in the number of women competing in the World Championships.

“The competition is getting tougher”, Fernandez said. “I’m happy to see the growing number of women participating in the sport. It also motivates me to be better when I see so many female athletes in Para powerlifting.”

“The thing that I like the most about powerlifting is that women can show their strength. It’s not just a sport made up for man, it is also a sport for women”, the Colombian added.

Peru’s Noemi Vasquez, gold medallist in the women’s up to 50kg at Bogota, also emphasized the importance of sport to the empowerment of women with disabilities.

"It is not only a sport, it’s your life as a woman. Sport opens more opportunities for me in terms of study, work, and many more things. I am becoming more independent. It drives me, motivates me, and makes me say: Yes, I can do it."

Vasquez took on Para sports in 1995, first in wheelchair basketball and Para athletics. But Para powerlifting changed her life. She is the only Peruvian female powerlifter with four consecutive national championship titles.

“There are no barriers, no obstacles if your dreams are yours. You are unique. There is no one like a woman, she is sweet and tender”, said Vasquez. “We have a special gift, no matter how many responsibilities we have, we can do anything, regardless of age, disability, or anything else. They put many limitations on me and I am living proof that you can do it.”

Record for Duman

Another young talent to celebrate a victory in the World Cup was Turkey’s Besra Duman who won gold in the women’s up to 55kg.

The Mexico City 2017 Worlds bronze medallist broke the European junior record with a 117kg-lift. Camila Campos from Chile took silver, while the bronze medal went to Venezuela’s Wiunawis Hernandez.

Turkey also triumphed in the women’s up to 61kg with Yasemin Ceylan Baydar and in the men’s up to 49kg with Abdullah Kayapinar. 

Hosts Colombia took four gold medals in the men’s events, in the up to 80kg, up to 88kg, up to 97kg, and over 107kg with Francisco Palomeque Palacios, Jainer Cantillo, Fabio Torres and Jhon Castaneda, respectively.

Reigning Parapan American Games champion Castaneda was responsible for the biggest lift of the whole World Cup with 221kg.

In the other men’s categories, world junior champion and record holder Donato Telesca from Italy took gold in the up to 72kg with a 183kg-lift. 

In the up to 59kg, Chile’s Juan Carlos Garrido won his long-awaited clash with El Salvador’s Herbert Aceituno. Garrido lifted 180kg for gold, while Aceituno had to settle for silver.

Garrido’s compatriots Javier Jimenez Cabrera and Jorge Carinao took two more victories for Chile in up to 54kg and up to 65kg categories.

Mexico’s Paralympic bronze medallist Jose de Jesus Castillo Castillo triumphed in up to 107kg against Georgia’s European Championships bronze medallist Akaki Jintcharidze who finished second.

All results from Bogota can be found on the World Para Powerlifting website

The next stop in the World Cup season will be in Manchester, Great Britain from 25 to 28 March.