Suspenseful showdowns on stage highlighted the action on Wednesday (1 December) at the Tbilisi 2021 World Championships.
Para powerlifting fans were kept on the edge of their seats right to the very end of the women’s up to 67kg.
It was an intense two-way battle for gold between China’s Tan Yujiao and Nigeria’s Lucy Ejike.
Ejike was in pole position as she headed into the final round having secured a lift of 126kg, 1kg more than the reigning world champion, Tan.
However, Tan looked to overtake Ejike with a final attempt of 129kg but due to an unsuccessful chest sequence, the Paralympic champion was denied a fourth world title meaning Ejike could add a third crown to her collection.
After winning bronze at the Tokyo Paralympics in a lower weight category (up to 61kg), Ejike raised Nigeria’s flag for the first time at these Championships in Tbilisi.
“I feel so great to come back to my normal position, again winning the gold medal”, said Ejike.
The battle for bronze was just as exciting as Worlds debutant Liao Liya from China, fought hard to beat the four-time champion Fatma Omar of Egypt, to the podium.
Having won her first Worlds’ gold in 1998, Omar’s experience helped her keep composure to edge ahead of Liao for bronze by 1kg.
Bettir victorious in almighty battle for gold
Heading into the final round of the men’s up to 65kg, there was no way to predict who was going to win as five athletes were on course for victory.
At long last, Algeria’s Hocine Bettir got his hands on gold after settling for bronze at the Tokyo Paralympics and silver at the last Worlds in Nur-Sultan two years ago.
“I am very happy for this medal after hard work,” said the champion. “Now I take my first gold medal in a World Championship”.
Nerves of steel were required entering the final round, for out of the previous 16 lifts only one was unsuccessful and no one showed signs of tiring.
Bettir kept his cool to complete the job, recording 194kg to award him the title.
“The performance of the athletes was very hard,” added Bettir who made a last-minute change to his final lift.
“I saw the table [and] I changed the bar from 193kg to 194kg and I took the gold medal”.
Whilst debutants Thomas Kura from Nigeria and China’s Zou Yi both attempted 195kg after Bettir’s final lift, neither were cleared.
Zou’s earlier lift of 192kg earned him the bronze whilst Kura added 3kg to his lifetime best, finishing fifth.
Sandwiched between Bettir and Zou was Iran’s Amir Jafari. A perfect performance from Jafari bagged him silver (193kg).
The World Championships continues on Thursday (2 December) with the women’s up to 73kg and 79kg followed by the men’s up to 72kg.
The Tbilisi 2021 World Para Powerlifting Championships is being livestreamed on the World Para Powerlifting website and Facebook page.
Complete schedule and results are available at the Tbilisi 2021 microsite.