Egypt took home two gold medals on Tuesday (13 September) – the penultimate day of powerlifting at Rio 2016 – which also saw one nation secure its first gold of the Games and the hosts claim their first ever powerlifting medal.
In the men’s up to 88kg United Arab Emirates veteran Mohamed Khalaf came away with his country’s first gold medal of Rio 2016.
At 47, Khalaf was the oldest man in the category, but he proved age was no barrier as he cleared 220kg to win the gold.
The session was also a memorable one for the home crowd as Evanio Da Silva delivered Brazil’s first ever powerlifting medal with a lift of 210kg for silver.
The bronze went to Mongolian Sodonompiljee Enkhbayar, who also cleared 210kg good, but was relegated due to his weight being higher than the Brazilian.
Khalaf said he came to Rio 2016 knowing he could compete for the medals, but ultimately was surprised to take gold as he was only considered second or third best in the event.
“I cannot express my happiness for getting this gold and to achieve in another competition,” Khalaf said.
“We are celebrating a holy day in my country so it was a very good opportunity for me to give something to the country and the UAE people.”
Undeterred by his age, he said he plans to push for more success at Tokyo 2020, but he has proud to have created lifelong memories in Rio.
“My experience made the difference and I’m glad that whenever I compete and engage with younger people, they can gain experience from me,” Khalaf said.
“I have an ambition and willing to keep doing it again and again.
“After winning the gold medal, Rio has become my favourite place.”
Da Silva was reduced to tears after his successful performance and he hopes to inspire more Brazilians to never give up on their dreams.
“I just wanted to go there to give my best, and it was my personal best,” Da Silva said.
“There is a lot of pressure involved when millions of people are staring at you and you have to be perfect in a few seconds.
“When I did not qualify for London 2012 I almost quit, although sport was a louder voice.
“It’s what I like to do and I know there are a lot of barriers on the way, but I always thought to keep going and be a winner.”
In the women’s up to 86kg Egypt’s Randa Mahmoud comfortably won her nation’s second gold medal of the powerlifting competition.
Mahmoud cleared 130kg to take the top spot on the podium from Jordan’s Tharwah Alhajaj, who produced 119kg with the final attempt for silver, with Mexico claiming the bronze thanks to a 117kg final round effort from Catalina Diaz-Vilchis.
The Egyptian returned to the stage fourth a fourth attempt of 137kg to set a new Paralympic record, but was unsuccessful.
Mahmoud was delighted to come away with gold after back-to-back silver medals at Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
“I am very happy to get the gold medal today and it makes me even happier to see the Egyptian flag as the highest flag,” she said.
“I have to thank everyone who helped and prayed for me including my coach and friends who helped me get the gold.
“When I cleared the 125kg with my first attempt, I was almost certain to get the gold, but I wanted to keep fighting to beat the record.”
Mahmoud said she will now look forward to a break for the next two or three months before determining how she prepares for the future.
“I might stay in the same category or I might go up and still try to break the Paralympic record and world record,” she added.
The men’s up to 97kg resulted in another gold medal to Egypt with Mohamed Eldib a class above, clearing 237kg with his final attempt.
Eldib was inches off adding to his own world record with a fourth attempt at 244kg, which was dismissed by the referees.
China’s Dong Qi took home silver with a lift of 233kg, while Mexican Jose de Jesus Castillo Castillo finished in the bronze medal position thanks to a 229kg effort.
Although he was unable to match Eldib, Qi was delighted to win his third consecutive Paralympic medal.
“I am very proud because it was my best mark. I had faced some injuries and my opponent (Eldib) is very powerful so I’m very happy to win a silver,” Qi said, whose nickname is the ‘Fierce Tiger’ because he was born in a city home to some of the biggest tigers in the world.
Meanwhile, an emotional Castillo was overwhelmed to have won his first ever Paralympic medal.
“It takes a lot of sacrifice to get at this maximum level for us Paralympic athletes,” he said.
“I’m satisfied with the work that I had put in getting this result; I knew it would very hard to beat the Egyptian since he’s the world champion and very strong.”