History-making Omar Qarada did not just find happiness in powerlifting. He also found love.
The 40-year-old became the first gold medallist from Jordan to become a Paralympic champion in the sport after winning the less than 49kg final at the Tokyo International Forum.
He must have wondered whether he was destined to always be a ‘nearly man’ after finishing second at Beijing 2008 and Rio 2016.
However, with the long-distance support of wife Asma Issa, also an international powerlifter, he beat close rival Le Van Kong of Vietnam in a reverse of the result in Brazil five years ago.
“Powerlifting is part of our life now. We have a lot of conversation about the sport and discuss each other’s game. Sometimes my wife also takes advice on skills and technique.
"It’s great to have a friend-come-wife at home with whom you can discuss about your passion. I am the lucky one,” said Qarada, who met Issa through the sport.
Reflecting on his gold-medal moment, Qarada paid tribute to Kong and warned that he already has ambitions for Paris 2024.
Just a stepping stone
“He is a friend. In Rio the same thing happened, we both lifted the same weight on our third lift, but in Rio it was Le stealing my gold medal. Today it was me who was able to steal the gold medal from him.
“The Paralympic gold just a stepping stone for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, where I promise I will set a new world record.”
Qarada, who was born without legs and generates considerable power from his upper-body strength, said he felt connected with powerlifting from the start. Two years later, he made his international debut.
He hopes that his medal will inspire many in his country to take up powerlifting or other para sports.
“There would be a lot of challenges in our path but that should not deter our spirit and goal. I hope my gold medal will inspire persons with disability to think that they can also achieve this by training and determination.
“The gold was a long-cherished dream. I had waiting for this for a long, long time. I am speechless and can’t describe my feelings. This is very, very special.”
Qarada, who is also a two-time silver medallist at the World Para Powerlifting Championships, ended Jordan’s 21 year wait for another Paralympic gold medal since Maha Al-Bargouti’s triumph in table tennis at Sydney 2000.