World medallists return to Tbilisi on a quest for European titles

Paralympic and world champion Mariana Shevchuk leads a team of Ukrainian female Para powerlifting stars 23 Sep 2022
A female Para powerlifter takes off her belt and celebrates after a lift.
Mariana Shevchuk became a world champion when she last competed in Tbilisi, at the 2021 World Para Powerlifting Championships.
ⒸHiroki Nishioka/WPPO
By World Para Powerlifting

Tbilisi was the site of a 10-day sports celebration when it hosted the 2021 World Para Powerlifting Championships to wrap up a milestone-filled year. Less than 10 months later, eight medallists from those world championships - including two Paralympic champions - are returning to the Georgian capital in search of European titles.

The European Open Championships will take place in Tbilisi, Georgia from 24 to 29 September and feature 10 men's and 10 women's individual events. The six-day competition will wrap up with three team events in the men's, women's and mixed categories.

This is the third international Para powerlifting competition Tbilisi is hosting since it held the Para Powerlifting World Cup in May 2021 and the World Para Powerlifting Championships from 27 November to 6 December 2021.

Ukrainian Wonder Women

With three medallists from last year's world championships on the roster, the Ukrainian team glitters with the most star power of the 30 nations set to compete at the European Open Championships.

A Paralympic, world and defending European champion, Mariana Shevchuk will be in the spotlight more than ever before as she tries to extend her reign in the women's up to 55kg class. 

Shevchuk has been on a rollercoaster journey since winning gold at the last European Championships, held in Berck-sur-Mer, France in 2018. She celebrated breaking the world record twice in the lead-up to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, but then contracted meningitis and was "steps away from death" on the eve of the Paralympics.

This health setback made the gold medal in Tokyo and then the world title in Tbilisi all the more meaningful for the 26-year-old who will now look to defend her European crown in Georgia.

Ukraine's team has multiple world medallists on the roster, including Paralympic and world champion Mariana Shevchuk. @Hiroki Nishioka/WPPO

Shevchuk's teammates, world bronze medallists Lidiia Soloviova and Nataliia Oliinyk, are also among the top medal hopefuls in Tbilisi. 

Soloviova won bronze in the women’s up to 50kg at the 2021 Worlds and has experienced the thrill of being a European champion before, winning that title at Eger 2015. She was unable to defend her title at the next edition of the European Championships, however, and settled for silver behind Turkey’s Nazmiye Muratli, who has since moved to the women's up to 45kg class. 

Fellow Ukrainian Oliinyk will also be looking to upgrade the colour of her medal having taken bronze in both the 2021 World Championships and Berck-sur-Mer in 2018 where she also made her European championships debut. No longer a novice in the sport, the Paralympic silver medallist arrives in Tbilisi as the one to beat in the women's up to 86kg.

The one and only

Mongolia will be represented by one athlete at the 2022 European Open Championships, but that one athlete packs the star power of an entire team.

Sodnompiljee Enkhbayar won Mongolia's second-ever gold medal at a Paralympic Games in Tokyo with a lift of 245kg in the men's up to 107kg. It was also Mongolia's only medal at the 2020 Paralympics.

The 2021 European Open is the third major Para powerlifting competition that Tbilisi is hosting following a World Cup and the World Championships in 2021. @Hiroki Nishioka/WPPO

His previous trip to Tbilisi resulted in a silver medal at the 2021 World Championships, and Enkhbayar will be looking to continue that medal streak when he makes his European Open debut on Sunday, 25 September.

From friendly rivals to cheerleaders

Great Britain’s Zoe Newson and Olivia Broome had an unlikely experience last month when they competed against each other at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Newson typically competes in the women's up to 45kg category while Broome is in the women's up to 55kg, but in Birmingham their events were combined into a single lightweight category, resulting in the unusual scenario of the two friends and teammates sharing the podium.

Newson took gold on that occasion with Broome picking up the silver. 

The two athletes will compete in separate classes again at the European Open in Tbilisi and support each other from the sidelines. Both won silver medals when they competed in the world championships in Tbilisi last year.

A 2020 Paralympic bronze medallist in the women's up to 50kg, Broome is one of the young stars in the sport. She has collected multiple gold medals at the top junior competitions, including the 2021 Junior World Championships in Tbilisi, and will be eager to get her first European title having finished fifth in her Euros debut four years ago.

Watch the European Open Championships live on Facebook and YouTube. Live results are available here