Egypt and China have enjoyed a fierce rivalry in Para powerlifting but the Islamic Republic of Iran could also figure at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, judging by their five gold medals at the world championships earlier in 2021.
Egypt will be looking to Sherif Osman, who is aiming for a fourth successive Paralympic title and who holds world records in the -54kg and -59kg categories, and a Paralympic record in the 59kg event.
“My dream is to win six gold medals in six Paralympic Games,” Osman said. “After I won my third gold medal in Rio (2016), the media asked me how I felt, and I said, ‘I feel like I am standing at the middle of my road’. I have a lot of road left, and it will be difficult, but it is not impossible.”
At Rio 2016 it was China leading the total medal count with 12, while Nigeria was top of the gold medal standings with six. The powerhouse Chinese team have eight of their 12 Rio 2016 medallists returning. Double world record holder Guo Lingling (women’s -41kg and -45kg) is set to make her Paralympic debut.
For IR Iran, Mansour Pourmirzaei is hailed as Siamand Rahman's heir in the men's over 107kg category following the sad death of Rahman in March 2020.
Others to watch out for include three-time Paralympic gold medallists Lucy Ejike of Nigeria, Mexico’s Amalia Perez and Bonnie Bunyau Gustin of Malaysia, who two months ago set a world record in the men’s -72kg.
Emmanuel Nii Tettey Oku, who competes in the -72kg event, is hoping to write his name into his country's sporting history books by becoming the first Ghanaian to win a Paralympic powerlifting medal.
“I’m going to expect something great," said Oku, whose nickname is ‘Survivor’. “When I look at the hope and trust my country has in me, it’s a motivation for me. It has really empowered me.
“I acquired my impairment by being shot in the line of duty as a palace guard. There was fighting between two parties there and all I know was I woke up in the hospital and my left leg was gone.”
Para powerlifting has been part of the Paralympic programme since Los Angeles 1984. In Tokyo, the sport will take place from 26 to 30 August at the Tokyo International Forum.
There will be 10 weight categories and will see 180 athletes - an equal number of men and women - competing for ten gold medals each.
Competition will begin with the men's -49kg before the women's -41kg on 26 August.