The first two of 20 medal events for powerlifting at Rio 2016 will be decided on Thursday (8 September) as the men’s 49kg and women’s 41kg competitions take centre stage in the Riocentro Pavilion 2.
Four years of preparation will culminate into one day of lifting for more than 180 powerlifters from 62 countries, across all divisions from 8-14 September.
Rio 2016 is expected to be the most competitive powerlifting event in Paralympics Games history, with new world records set in 15 out of the 20 weight categories in 2015.
The opening day of competition will see Nigeria’s London 2012 champion Yakubu Adesokan take on Vietnamese world record holder Van cong Le in the men’s up to 49kg from 1pm.
Just 1kg has separated the pair at their last two meetings, with one win each going into the Paralympics.
Less than two years after winning gold in the men’s up to 48kg, on his Paralympic debut at London 2012, Nigeria’s Yakubu Adesokan won his inaugural world title in 2014 with a new world record.
His lift of 181kg was a clear standout against the rest of the field, including Le, who took away silver with a best of 180kg.
But, at their most recent meeting at the 2015 IPC Powerlifting Asian Open Championships, it was Le who had the upper hand, needing just one lift of 177kg to win gold.
He then went even better with fourth lift of 182kg, adding 1kg onto Adesokan’s world record.
Jordan’s Omar Sami Hamadeh Qarada is another face to watch as he currently ranked third in the Paralympic rankings behind Le and Adesokan after a 176kg result from the IPC Powerlifting World Cup in Dubai, in February this year.
Later in the day, from 4pm, the women’s up to 41kg event will be staged with Turkey’s Paralympic, world and European title holder Nazmiye Muratli out to beat China’s world record holder Zhe Cui for the coveted gold medal.
Cui broke the world record at the 2015 IPC Powerlifting Asian Open Championships with a fourth round lift of 103.5kg, improving on Muratli’s world title winning lift from 2014 by 0.5kg.
Whilst Muratli did not compete at any World Cups in 2016, Cui took the chance to test herself in Dubai in February where she competed in the up to 45kg category and lifted 104kg.
Looking further down the Paralympic rankings for qualification for Rio 2016, 19-year-old Nigerian Jonah Ben has also made an impact.
With her second place finish from the Asian Open, Ben locked in a new junior world record of 100kg and put herself in contention for a Paralympic medal as the third ranked powerlifter behind Muratli and Cui.