Sport week: Welcome to powerlifting

A closer look at the sport with the strongest Paralympians 27 Apr 2020
A female powerlifter celebrating being watched by man
Powerlifting has been on the Paralympic programme since Stoke Mandeville & New York 1984
ⒸJulian Finney/Getty Images
By World Para Powerlifting

Para powerlifting brings to the Paralympic Games the world's strongest female and male Para athletes.

The sport is open to athletes with eight eligible physical disabilities who compete in one sport class across 10 different weight categories per gender.

Men compete in the up to 49kg, 54kg, 59kg, 65kg, 72kg, 80kg, 88kg, 97kg, 107kg and over 107kg divisions.

Women compete in up to 41kg, 45kg, 50kg, 55kg, 61kg, 67kg, 73kg, 79kg, 86kg and over 86kg divisions.

How it works

In powerlifting, athletes assume a supine position on a specially designed bench. After taking the bar at arm's length with locked elbows and the bar under control, the athlete waits for a brief moment for the Chief Referee's signal.

After receiving the signal "start", the lifter must lower the bar to the chest, hold it motionless on the chest and then press it upwards evenly, with an even equal extension of both the arms with locked elbows. 

When held motionless and controlled in this position, the audible signal “rack” is given and the bar is returned to the rack. 

Then athletes have to wait for the lift decision from the three international referees through a system of white and red lights. 

An athlete must receive a minimum of two good lifts (white light) for their attempt to count towards the result.

Each athlete has three attempts, and upon discretion of the jury a fourth attempt may be allowed to achieve a new world record, but this attempt does not count towards the final competition result.

A bit of history...

Powerlifting made its Paralympic Games debut at Stoke Mandeville & New York 1984 with seven medal events and 16 athletes. 

Fast forward 32 years, and a total of 180 lifters (80 female and 100 male) from 60 countries competed across 20 medal events at Rio 2016.

China are leading the sport's medals table with 27 golds, 21 silvers and 22 bronze, followed by Egypt and Nigeria.

Egypt’s Fatma Omar is the most successful Paralympic powerlifter with four golds and one silver between 2000 and 2016.

More information about the sport is available on World Para Powerlifting website.