In pic­tures

Their hearts are big enough to not only over­come ad­ver­sity but to be cham­pi­ons as well. only over­come well.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By CHIN MUI YOON star2@thes­ Pho­tos by ART CHEN

Par­a­lympic pow­er­lift­ing

THE sta­dium is hushed. Omar Qarada is mak­ing a sec­ond at­tempt to win a gold medal by lift­ing 172kg. He holds the bench-press bar mo­tion­less just above his chest, and with one steady move, lifts it, holds it – and wins a gold medal in the 48kg cat­e­gory of the Malaysia Open Pow­er­lift­ing Cham­pi­onships held last week at Ti­ti­wangsa Sta­dium in Kuala Lumpur.

It’s an amaz­ing feat con­sid­er­ing Qarada weighs a mere 44.74kg. The 30-year-old from Jor­dan was born with­out lower limbs but that didn’t stop him from be­com­ing a na­tional ath­lete in par­a­lympic pow­er­lift­ing. Or from hav­ing a pos­i­tively in­fec­tious zest for life!

“I ex­pected to win,” Qarada says with a grin (through a trans­la­tor).

“This sport is about men­tal for­ti­tude as much as phys­i­cal strength. I am aim­ing for the Par­a­lympics in London. That is my goal and my heart is set to­wards mak­ing the team. I want to take home a gold medal for my coun­try, with or with­out my legs,” says the young Jor­da­nian, who is the youngest of nine sib­lings.

He cred­its his mother with be­ing his in­spi­ra­tion. “My fa­ther has died. My mother was the one who lifted me and car­ried me through life. I would be nowhere with­out her. I love this sport and I want to ex­cel in it.”

Qarada has al­ready beaten the cur­rent Par­a­lympics record for the 48kg cat­e­gory held by Nige­rian Ruel Ishaku.

Par­a­lympic pow­er­lift­ing is one of the world’s fastest grow­ing sports with over 100 na­tions com­pet­ing nowa­days. With ath­letes bat­tling to lift ever greater weights against each other de­spite their dis­abil­i­ties, the sport of­fers a dra­matic sport­ing spec­ta­cle.

For­merly known as weightlift­ing, the sport made its de­but as a medal event at the sec­ond Par­a­lympics Games in Tokyo in 1964. It has since ex­panded to in­clude ath­letes with cere­bral palsy or spinal in­juries, low­er­limb am­putees and “les autres” or “the other” dis­abil­ity groups in­clud­ing peo­ple who have dwarfism or have ex­pe­ri­enced am­pu­ta­tion or limb loss, spinal cord in­jury, wheel­chair users, and other cere­bral palsy or brain in­jury dis­abil­i­ties. Women too joined the sport from the 2000 Syd­ney Games on­wards. And from 25 na­tions at the 1992 Par­a­lympic Games in Barcelona, the num­ber of par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries has grown to 109 coun­tries across five con­ti­nents to­day.

Ath­letes meet a strict cri­te­ria based on their im­pair­ment and are grouped by body weight into 10 cat­e­gories: 48kg, 52kg, 56kg, 60kg, 67.5kg, 75kg, 82.5kg, 90kg, 100kg, and over 100kg. Each ath­lete is given three tries to raise a bench­press. They must lower the bench-press to their chest and hold it mo­tion­less, then press it up­wards to arm’s length while keep­ing their el­bows locked.

“The Malaysia cham­pi­onships is cru­cial as it’s the sec­ond last com­pe­ti­tion sanc­tioned by the In­ter­na­tional Par­a­lympic Com­mit­tee for rank­ings to qual­ify for the Par­a­lympic Games 2012,” ex­plains Lt-kdr (Re­tired) Ka­maruza­man Kadir, Malaysia Pow­er­lift­ing Para As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent.

Among the stars in the Malaysian camp is veteran Peru­mal Mari­ap­pan, who, at 54, is among the old­est com­peti­tors. He has won over 50 medals over the 30 years of be­ing a na­tional ath­lete, in­clud­ing the bronze at the 1988 Seoul Par­a­lympics and 1992 Barcelona Par­a­lympics. He fin­ished fifth in At­lanta (1996), fourth in Syd­ney (2000) and fifth in Athens (2004).


ing veteran who, at co­mover 50 of in­clud1988 1992 He 1996), and

(Pic above) With steely de­ter­mi­na­tion in her eyes, Shar­i­fah

raudzah, 39, is pre­pared for bat­tle,

as she gets a push onto the com­pe­ti­tion plat­form from her team coach. (Pic

right) Shar­i­fah warm­ing up be­fore go­ing on to win sil­ver

for Malaysia in the 75kg-82.5kg cat­e­gory.

Like all ath­letes ev­ery­where in the world, gold was what ev­ery­one was chas­ing at the Malaysia open Pow­er­lift­ing Cham­pi­onships.

Pre­par­ing body and mind: an ath­lete rub­bing chalk over his palms to en­sure the best grip. It takes in­cred­i­ble strength to grip and raise the im­mense weights above the chest, es­pe­cially when the lower limbs can­not be used for bal­ance.

Malaysian lifter Mari­ap­pan Peru­mal has been com­pet­ing for 30 years and has won more than 50 medals since mak­ing his de­but at the In­ter­na­tional Stoke Man­dev­ille Wheel­chair Sports Fed­er­a­tion Games in London in 1981. yet, in his own coun­try, he re­mains un­known and walks a lonely path with­out any fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity along­side his wife, b. Chan­dri­gak, who is also dis­abled.

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bri­tish ath­lete Paul efenya, 34, bal­ances his body weight and po­si­tion with his pros­thetic leg dur­ing warm ups. He won the bronze medal in the 100kg cat­e­gory by lift­ing 185kg.

Heart of a cham­pion: omar Qarada keeps break­ing his own records, and this time around, he eas­ily picked up the gold in the 48kg cat­e­gory with a lift of 172kg at the Malaysia open Pow­er­lift­ing Cham­pi­onship last week.

Sadly, the same can’t be said about sup­port from out­side the com­mu­nity of the dif­fer­ently abled, as Sta­dium Ti­ti­wangsa looked dispir­it­ingly empty at times.

ev­ery ath­lete present was aim­ing for gold yet they dis­played su­perb sports­man­ship, as each one would cheer and sup­port even their com­peti­tors in the same cat­e­gory.

It takes nerves of steel and sheer men­tal strength for each ath­lete to fo­cus all their en­ergy on the bar raised above their heads when they are sur­rounded by com­pe­ti­tion judges and of­fi­cials for each lift.

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as great men­tal clar­ity and fo­cus is vi­tal to make a lift, Ira­nian com­peti­tor ali Sadeghzadehsalmani, 34, lit­er­ally blocks out the world with a jacket over his face while he gets a mus­cle rub from an as­sis­tant. He won the gold in the up to 100kg cat­e­gory with a lift of 236kg, the heav­i­est weight achieved at the com­pe­ti­tion.

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