Powerlifting is a bench-press competition – a tense and dramatic sporting spectacle as athletes battle to lift more weight than their rivals.
Powerlifting is all about the bench press. Athletes lie on their back on a bench to lower a weighted bar to their chest, hold it motionless then press it upwards to arms' length with locked elbows. Using well developed chest, shoulder, arm and triceps muscles, some can lift more than three times their own body weight!
The sport made its Paralympic debut at Tokyo 1964, when it was called Weightlifting and open only to men with spinal cord injuries. Other disability groups became involved, including those with cerebral palsy, polio and lower limb amputations, and the sport incorporated rules similar to Powerlifting competitions for able bodied athletes.
In 1992 it was decided that the Paralympic Games should only feature Powerlifting as opposed to Weightlifting. The Barcelona 1992 Games saw athletes from 25 countries compete, a number which has since almost trebled. A women's competition has featured since Sydney 2000.
At Tokyo 2020, men and women will each compete in 10 different classes – from up to 49 kilograms to over 107kg for men, and from up to 41kg and over 86kg for women. Athletes compete in turn, making three attempts to determine who can lift the greatest weight. There are no class divisions based on the type or degree of impairment; all athletes compete in their appropriate weight class. For athletes with lower limb amputation, a certain weight based on the degree of amputation is added to their actual physical weight to determine the class in which they compete. Each lifter is allowed three attempts at each weight. In the event of a tie, the athlete with the lowest bodyweight wins. International Federation: World Para Powerlifting
International Federation: World Para Powerlifting
- up to 49.00kg (Men)
- up to 54.00kg (Men)
- up to 59.00kg (Men)
- up to 65.00kg (Men)
- up to 72.00kg (Men)
- up to 80.00kg (Men)
- up to 88.00kg (Men)
- up to 97.00kg (Men)
- up to 107.00kg (Men)
- over 107.00kg (Men)
- up to 41.00kg (Women)
- up to 45.00kg (Women)
- up to 50.00kg (Women)
- up to 55.00kg (Women)
- up to 61.00kg (Women)
- up to 67.00kg (Women)
- up to 73.00kg (Women)
- up to 79.00kg (Women)
- up to 86.00kg (Women)
- over 86.00kg (Women)
A test of strength and technique
Each athlete starts by lying totally flat on a specially designed bench 48 to 50 centimetres off the floor. The bench is 2.1 metres long and 61 centimetres at its widest. After taking or receiving the weighted bar and holding it at arms' length, the lifter then lowers the bar to the chest, holds it motionless then presses it upward in one smooth movement to the original position, with both arms equally extended and locked elbows. The bar is held motionless in that position until the Chief Referee says ‘Rack’ and it is returned to the stand.
The attempt is judged by three referees using a system of white and red lights, with two or more white lights indicating a good lift, and two or more red lights indicating a no lift. Athletes have three attempts at each weight.
Pressing for gold
Siamand Rahman of Iran was the focus of attention at Rio 2016. Not only did he win his second Paralympic gold medal in the men's over 107kg division, he rewrote the history books by breaking his own world record with an unprecedented lift of 310kg, 20kg more than the then world record for able-bodied athletes.
Rahman had been aiming at the unprecedented 300kg mark for some time. In the Rio competition he easily lifted 270kg on his first attempt, then went for 300kg. As the lights confirmed a good lift, a smile spread across his face and the venue burst into loud applause. On his third attempt he lifted 305kg to take the gold medal, then set his world record on a fourth attempt to bring the competition to an exhilarating climax.
Mexico's Amalia Perez has been a leading figure in women's Powerlifting over more than two decades of competition. She won in the 52kg class at Beijing 2008, the 60kg class at London 2012 and the 55kg class once again at Rio 2016, where she lifted a world-record 130kg.
As the sport continues to grow quickly worldwide, will new stars lifting huge weights emerge at Tokyo 2020?
- Tokyo International Forum