China's Liu Lei ended his Paralympic career on a high note by winning the men’s up to 65kg category at the Tokyo International Forum on Friday (27 August).
The 33-year-old announced his probable retirement from the sport after claiming a gold medal at his fourth successive Games.
“This will be the last time I compete in the Paralympic Games,” Lei said after the medal ceremony. “I am considering retirement and I am looking towards a career in teaching or a related field. But definitely I will not participate in the Paralympics again.”
While Lei’s fourth Paralympic title ties the mark of countryman Haidong Zhang atop the men’s gold medal list, he was reluctant to acknowledge his status as one of the greatest powerlifters of all time when reflecting on his career.
“There’s always someone who will come along and be better than me,” Lei said. “I enjoy my accomplishments and I’m proud, but definitely there will be someone else who achieves more than I have done.”
Lei’s triumph came at the end of a three-gold day for the formidable Chinese Para powerlifting team at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
His 198kg-lift in the first attempt could not be matched by Iran’s silver medallist Amir Jafari (195kg). Algeria’s Hocine Bettir took the bronze medal (192kg).
Shevchuk's impressive recovery
In the women's up to 55kg, world record holder Mariana Shevchuk from Ukraine continued her sparkling form after recovering from meningitis by completing a first lift of 125kg that would not be matched.
In besting silver medallist Cuijuan Xiao (124kg), Shevchuk alone prevented a China sweep of the top podium positions. Turkey’s Besra Duman finished with bronze (124kg).
“It was very hard to be here in Tokyo and win this gold medal,” said Shevchuk. “We had a very critical situation.”
“The critical situation was that she was just steps away from death with meningitis,” added her coach, Oleg Pakula. “Today is a great result. To have a gold now is really a miracle. In that moment when she was sick, it wasn’t about sport. It was about life and death.”
The Para powerlifting competition continues in Tokyo on Saturday (28 August) with other four medal events.
Complete schedule and results can be found on Paralympic.org.