Birmingham 2022: Sensational Gustin powers to Commonwealth Games gold

Malaysian smashes Games record three times; Nigeria's Oluwafemiayo sets new world record and Sudhir wins India's first gold in Para powerlifting 05 Aug 2022
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Malaysia's Bonnie Bunyau Gustin celebrates his gold medal on the podium.
Malaysia’s Bonnie Bunyau Gustin (centre) celebrates his first gold medal at a Commonwealth Games, with silver medalist Mark Swan of England (left) and Nigeria’s Innocent Nnamdi who took the bronze at the men's lightweight medal ceremony at the Birmingham 2022.
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By Mary Barber l For World Para Powerlifting

Malaysia’s Bonnie Bunyau Gustin came to the Birmingham 2022 with a mission and he completed it in style, smashing the Commonwealth Games record three times on his way to win the men’s lightweight (up to 72 kg) title on Thursday (4 August).

The gold medal show meant the Paralympic and two-time world champion upgraded his fourth-place finish at the Gold Coast 2018 at the NEC Arena.

Gustin began with a Games record-breaking lift of 210kg which earned him 147.6 points and just 20 minutes later, he stunned the crowd by breaking it again. 

He set the bar at 216kg to amass 151.8 points, before smashing it yet again with 220kg and 154.6 points, which was just 10kg off his world record of 230kg, set last year in Dubai.

Mark Swan of England was 9.1 points behind to take silver while Nigeria’s Nnamdi Innocent (132.5) took the bronze.

“It feels great to win and put in a good performance,” said Gustin after receiving his gold medal. “I planned to do well. My aim was to break the Games record and now my aim is to break my own world record.”

The 23-year-old’s family and friends were watching the competition online from Malaysia. His father Jenang and brother Bryan have both competed at international level.

“My dad is watching on YouTube. I’m sure he’s proud of me,” Gustin said.

“So many teachers told me it was not a good idea [leaving school], playing sport. I have proof now that it’s good. I think they will be proud of me.”

Nigeran stranglehold broken

Gustin’s powerful performance broke Nigeria’s stranglehold on Para powerlifting at the Commonwealth Games. They are the only nation to have won since the sport was introduced at Manchester 2002. 

In the women’s lightweight (up to 61 kg) event, there were surprises too as reigning Paralympic champion Latifat Tijani and Onyinyechi Mark, favourites for title, were disqualified for arriving 25 minutes late for the pre-competition kit check on Thursday.

England’s Zoe Newsom claimed gold after 101kg that earned her 102.2 points, while her teammate Olivia Broome (100 pts) took the silver and Kenya’s Hellen Wawira Kariuki (98.5 pts) bronze.

“I feel proud, emotional and happy to have won,” said the 30-year-old Newson, who came home with bronze at the Gold Coast 2018. “I think for the first time ever I actually felt confident in myself ahead of the competition. So, I’m happy it went well. 

“It was good to be on the podium. My son was in the audience, and when I saw him, I cried.”

First gold for India

History was made when Sudhir won India’s first gold in Para Powerlifting, winning the men’s heavyweight (over 72 kg) title with a Games record of 134.5 points. 

The 27-year-old lifted 212kg to seal a 0.9-point victory over Nigeria's Ikechukwu Christian Obichukwu, while Scotland's Micky Yule (130.9pts) upgraded his two previous fourth places at the Games to take bronze.

"I absolutely thought I would win gold. My preparation was very good and I thank Birmingham for this. Preparation was good, the weather was good, the crowd was great – fantastic.

"My next target is the Asian Games, and then the Paris Olympics [in 2024]," said an ecstatic Sudhir on his gold medal show.

Yule, 43, was overwhelmed to take the bronze. Yule was serving in the Army when he lost his legs due to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2010. 

Birmingham 2022 was his third Commonwealth Games after he had finished just outside the medals at both Glasgow 2014 and Gold Coast 2018. “I finally got that bronze medal. It's a weight off my shoulders and I couldn’t be happier,” he said.

Oluwafemiayo sets World record

Reigning Paralympic and three-time World champion Folashade Oluwafemiayo added to her haul when she won the women’s Para powerlifting heavyweight (over 61 kg) title with a new World and Commonwealth Games record.

The 37-year-old from Nigeria lifted 155kg in her third attempt to amass 123.4 points for the new records. Her teammate Bose Omolayo finished 8.2 points behind to take silver with Australia’s Hani Watson in bronze.

“I did not just expect to win,” said Omolayo afterwards. “I expected a gold medal and a world record, and I got them. I am so happy.”

The Para powerlifting points system at the Birmingham 2022 is based on a formula which includes an athlete’s weight and the weight that they lift. It means an athlete lifting the heaviest weight may not necessarily win.

Complete result for the Para powerlifting competition at Birmingham 2022 is available here.