Paralympic champions Paul Kehinde and Liu Lei suffered a shock defeat against 20-year-old Bonnie Bunyau Gustin in an exciting third day of competition at the World Para Powerlifting Championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
The Malaysian opened with a 185kg lift before progressing to 197kg and 207kg in the men’s up to 65kg to take his first senior major title.
“I am very happy. I never expected to win the gold here with such strong competitors in my category,” said Gustin, who finished sixth at Mexico City 2017.
“But I believed in myself, in my hard work and discipline that I follow in my training. This is my biggest win ever.”
Algeria’s Hocine Bettir (194kg) claimed silver and Iranian Amir Jafari Arangeh (193kg) collected bronze.
Chinese three-time Paralympic gold medallist Liu was far from his personal best, lifting only 190kg to end in fourth place.
It was also a heartbreaking competition for Nigerian fans as world record holder Paul Kehinde left after three invalid lifts.
“There are wins and defeats. This is sports,” he said.
Lucy Ejike dominates
While there were shocks, there were also some expected winners. Nigerian multiple-time Paralympic champion Lucy Ejike lived up to her promise and added another world title to her glittering career in the women’s up to 61 kg.
The 41-year-old comfortably pushed 132 kg in her third attempt to clinch the gold ahead of Uzbekistan’s Ruza Kuzieva (125 kg). Ukrainian Rayisa Toporkova cleared the bar at a European record of 123kg to claim bronze.
Ejike said she wanted to go for more, but her coach advised her not to. “I am saving my power and best for Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. You need to watch and wait for me in Tokyo.
“Becoming a champion is easier than maintaining being a champion. I get inspired when people look up to me and expect from me (to win); I have been a champion for so many years and I always try to achieve more to inspire the next generation.”
Shevchuk secures bittersweet win
Ukrainian Mariana Shevchuk delivered a power performance to claim her maiden World Championships title in the women’s up to 55kg thanks a 128kg lift.
But the European champion later failed to break her own world record of 131kg.
“I am happy and sad too because I couldn’t get the world record here. I trained hard. There was mental pressure,” she said.
It was a disappointing competition for Mexico’s multiple-Paralympic and world champion Amelia Perez, who failed to make even one successful attempt.
China’s Rio 2016 bronze medallist Xiao Cuijuan (126kg) finished second and Russia’s Tamara Podpalnaya (122kg) third.
Action will continue on Tuesday with the men’s up to 72kg and up to 80kg, and women’s up to 67kg.
You can watch the Nur-Sultan 2019 World Para Powerlifting Championships live on its official website and Facebook page.