A star-studded line up including Paralympic and world champions will be in action when Dubai hosts the last World Cup of the season before the Paralympic Games from June 19 to 24 (Saturday to Thursday) at the Dubai Club for People of Determination.
Around 250 Para powerlifters from 54 nations will be in action during six days at Dubai 2021 which is the last opportunity for athletes to improve their world rankings to grab a slot for the Tokyo 2020 Games.
Russia will field the biggest delegation with 18 athletes followed by Egypt with 17 members, including their biggest star, three-time Paralympic champion Sherif Osman, besides Japan (15) and hosts United Arab Emirates (15).
“I am eager to compete after a long gap of 15 months. As this is the final event before the Games, the challenge will be very tough. Everyone will be very strong. I even feel Dubai 2021 will pose a tougher challenge than Tokyo 2020,” said the 39-year-old Osman who is aiming yet again at a gold medal.
Khalaf leads hosts
The home challenge will be led by experienced Mohammed Khamis Khalaf, who will be joined by 12 male and two female powerlifters.
Khalaf, who has had a month-long training camp at North Macedonia, would be aiming to secure a spot in men’s up to 88 kg, the same category in which he won gold at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.
“This will be a very important event as everyone will try to get the ticket for the Tokyo 2020 Games. For me personally, this event is close to my heart as this is my home event and there will be a lot of expectations on me. I will try to do my best,” Khalaf said.
The 51-year-old will face the reigning world champion Ye Jixiong from China in his way to home glory.
Other Nur-Sultan 2019 world champions in Dubai are Russia’s Vladimir Balynets (men’s up to 49kg) and Vladimir Krivulya (men’s up to 54kg), and Malaysia’s Bonnie Bunyau Gustin (men’s up to 72kg).
Jordan’s Omar Qarada, Rio 2016 silver medallist, will be another name to watch out for in men’s up to 49kg. Iraq will rest their hopes on another silver medallist from the last Paralympics, Rasool Mohsin.
Italy will look to make some presence through their junior world champion Donato Telesca in men’s up to 80kg.
In the heavyweight categories, Egypt looks strong as well with Paralympic medallists Mohammed Ahmed and Amr Mosaad in their ranks. With the absence of Iran, they will look to make the most of the opportunity along with China’s Hu Deng and Gu Xiofei.
China strong in women's events
The women’s event will equally witness power-packed performances with China arriving with their best powerlifters, such as Paralympic and world champions Guo Lingling (up to 41kg), Cui Zhe (up to 45kg) and Tan Yujiao (up to 67kg).
Lingling is expected to be challenged by Indonesia’s Rio 2016 bronze medallist Ni Nengah Widiasih, the gold meadlist at Bangkok 2021 World Cup, and Worlds bronze medallist Noura Badour of Syria.
Kazakh junior world champion Tabyl Tursynay might also spring a surprise.
“I am both excited and anxious going into the World Cup. With all the top players here, the event will be a big test ahead of Tokyo 2020. I want to give my 100 per cent and get a good result here as well.
That will boost my confidence ahead for the Games,” said Widiasih, who will spearhead Indonesia’s three-member women team in Dubai.
Among others to watch out at Dubai 2021 are Egypt's Rehab Ahmed in the women’s up to 50kg, Mexico’s Amalia Perez (up to 61kg), Kazakhstan’s Raushan Koishibayeva (up to 67kg), Indonesian Siti Mahmudah (upto 79kg) and Egypt’s Randa Mahmoud (over 86kg), all of them Paralympic medallists.
The event will kick start on Saturday (June 19) with men’s up to 49kg followed by women’s up to 41kg, up to 45kg and up to 67kg events.
The Dubai 2021 World Cup will be live on World Para Powerlifting website and Facebook page. Full schedule and results can be found here.