Biggest crowds of the Games roar on powerlifters to gold glory

Three champions are crowned as Paralympians thank supporters for pushing them on during cracking day of competition at Riocentro. 10 Sep 2016 By Beau Greenway for the IPC

An exciting third day of powerlifting competition saw the best crowds of the event so far roll into the Riocentro Pavillion 2 to see another three Paralympic champions crowned.

Ukranian legend Lidiia Soloviova won her third Paralympic gold medal in the women’s up to 50kg category in the morning session, in front of a very vocal Brazilian crowd.

Soloviova cleared 107kg to set a new Paralympic record and claim the title ahead of Egypt’s Rehab Ahmed (104kg) and Vietnam’s Thi Linh Puhong Dang (102kg), in what was a very close overall competition.

The Ukranian returned to the arena for a fourth attempt of 109kg to raise the Paralympic record, but just fell short.

Speaking after the medal ceremony, Soloviova said she was overwhelmed with the amount of support she received during her Rio 2016 campaign.

“I’m very excited, today I had a lot of fans, Ukranian people, everyone was cheering me on,” she said.

“Without them I wouldn’t have won the gold and I thank them all so much.

“I was amazed and excited by the noise, they remembered me and helped me so much to win.”

The five-time Paralympic medallist said she was unsure what the future holds and is yet to determine whether she will begin another four-year campaign for Tokyo 2020.

The women’s up to 55kg category was next on the agenda and it was Mexico’s Amalia Perez who won her third consecutive Paralympic gold medal in stunning fashion.

After failing with her first attempt at 120kg, Perez completed the lift on the second time of asking before raising the bar a further 10kg with her final attempt to set a new world record of 130kg.

Nigeria’s Esther Oyema, who finished with silver, broke the world record with her second attempt at 127kg and narrowly missed out on the gold medal. Her attempt at 130kg was not deemed satisfactory by two of the three referees, while the bronze medal was claimed by China’s Cuijuan Xiao with a lift of 115kg.

Perez, a five-time Paralympian, made the most of the raft of Brazilian supporters cheering her onto victory.

“I saw how the other teams were making their strategy and I tried to make my own,” Perez said.

“My blood started to boil in a good sense when I felt the Brazilian crowd cheering me on and I went and gave it my best.

“I felt the warmth from the crowd, while the crowd was cheering on everyone, it’s different being Latina so I really felt that support.

“I also had my daughter in the crowd who is two-years-old and that motivated me as well.”

Perez said each Paralympics has had a special feeling of its own, but admitted she felt a really strong vibe at Rio 2016. And she hasn’t ruled out going to her sixth Paralympics in 2020.

“In reality I would like to go to Tokyo and it is going to take a lot of power to get there, but I’m going to leave it to God and life to see if it will carry me there,” she said.

In the final event of the day, the sixth world record in powerlifting at Rio 2016 was broken with Nigeria’s Paul Kehinde cruising to the gold medal with a lift of 218kg, which he improved to 220kg with his fourth attempt.

Kehinde outclassed the rest of the field with China’s Peng Hu the next closest with a lift of 200kg to claim the silver, with Egypt’s Shaaban Ibrahim completing the podium with his effort of 193kg.

The Nigerian rising star had been waiting for this moment for a long time and was very happy to see it all come together perfectly at Rio 2016.

“I’ve trained very hard for the last four years so all the weights felt very light in my hands so I came with full force,” Kehinde said.

“Being the Paralympic champion is something I’ve been dreaming of for a very long time and I just wanted to hold the record for myself and now I’ve done it.

“Every time I went to the stage everyone gave me their full support so I have to thank everyone and my country for bringing me here.

“Every time I go home I continue my journey, so my goal is to make it to Tokyo 2020.”