Over three days in Egypt, world champions and medallists reunited just two months after Dubai 2023 to collect points and improve their rankings to qualify for the 2024 Paris Paralympic Games.
As Cairo hosted the 2023 World Para Powerlifting World Cup, Egypt in the individuals won 11 gold medals, 11 silver and four bronze. In the team events, Egypt garnered three gold, two silver, and one bronze to take first place.
Sixty-two athletes from 11 nations competed in 20 weight categories and three team events, stirring up the tournament.
Egypt took part in the event with 31 powerlifters, spearheaded by two-time Paralympic medallist Rehab Ahmed.
Ahmed, a three-time consecutive world champion and two-time Paralympic silver medallist in the women’s up to 50kg, is writing a new chapter in her career. She debuted in a new category, the women’s up to 55kg, at Dubai 2023 and emerged the best. She added a second gold medal and a new world championship title after snatching the gold in Cairo.
Ahmed participated in the individual event and in the mixed team event where she also collected a second gold medal.
From astonishing display of raw strength to emotional triumphs, the Cairo 2023 event delivered an amazing spectacle.
Egypt, buoyed by the home crowd and led by world champion Ahmed, finished the competition as the most successful team with their athletes triumphing in 14 out of 23 events.
Ahmed lifted 134 kg to take the gold in the women’s up to 55 kg, adding 4 kg to the 130 kg that made her world champion for the fourth time in a row at the Dubai 2023 World Championships in August.
She also contributed with a 120 kg lift in the mixed team event alongside her teammates Mohamed Al-Menyawi and Mohamed Al-Elfat, who together scored 372.87 points, to hoist Egypt’s flag atop the podium in the mixed team event.
Individually, Al-Menyawi and Al-Elfat lifted respectively 190 kg in the men’s up to 59 kg and 223 kg in the men’s up to 88 kg.
Omaima Omar, Randa Mahmoud, and Safaa Hassan were other Egyptian powerlifters who collected golds in both individual and team events. Together, they accumulated 287.66 points in the women’s team event by lifting 95 kg, 125 kg, and 120 kg, respectively.
Separately, Hassan triumphed in the women’s up to 73 kg with an effort of 127 kg while Mahmoud managed a successful lift of 132 kg lift for the women’s up to 86 kg honours, while Omar emerged the winner in the women’s up to 50 kg with an effort of 103 kg.
In their 14 gold medal winning campaign, the home nation also had contributions from Fatma Korani and Nadia Ali in the women’s up to 61 kg and over 86 kg respectively; and from the men’s event: Taha Abdel-Maguid in the up to 54 kg, Mazhar Al-Sayed in the up to 80 kg, and Mahmoud Attia in the up to 72 kg categories, in addition to the men’s team composed by Fouad Mohamed, Abdel-Baset Moussa, and Hassan Al-Attar.
Aside from the Egyptians, four other national anthems were played during the three days in Cairo.
Algeria topped the podium four times. Among the men, an effort of 145 kg by Hadj Beyour in the up to 49 kg and Hocine Bettir with a 190 kg lift in the up to 65 kg category were enough to get them the gold while Nacera Merar and Samira Guerioua lifted 127 kg and 93 kg to be the champions of the up to 79 kg and up to 45 kg events, respectively.
Georgia, too, celebrated their three gold medals thanks to the efforts of Maka Kvinchia who lifted 84 kg in the women’s up to 67 kg, while Iago Gorgodze was the winner in the men’s up to 107 kg with an effort of 190 kg. Meanwhile, Akaki Jintcharadze made a successful lift of 230 kg in the men’s over 107 kg.
Italy and Kenya also saw their flags in the highest spot of the podium as Andrea Quarto won the first event with a 206 kg lift in the men’s up to 97 kg while Hellen Kariuki lifted 98 kg in the women’s up to 41 kg category.
Among the visitors, Georgia had eight representatives, followed by Algeria with six. The other eight participants were divided from two continents. Italy, Hungary, Moldova and Estonia represented Europe and Ghana, Guinea, Malawi and Namibia from Africa.
“I am very proud of you Paralympians,” Egyptian Minister for Youth and Sports Ashraf Sobhi said after the tournament. “You have honoured us with your achievements and I am sure that you will raise the Egyptian flag many times in the 2024 Paris Paralympic Games as you have always done. I am here to help and provide you with all your needs before the Paralympic Games.”
Jorge Moreno, head of World Para Powerlifting, said he was “very excited as Cairo has organised an outstanding championship”.
Moreno said no powerlifters from any country had yet qualified for the 2024 Paris Paralympic Games and that the eight powerlifters that will qualify in each weight category won’t be clear until the World Championship in Egypt, in Sharm El-Sheikh, in March 2024. “It will be a golden chance for Egypt to host such an important qualifier and it will attract powerlifters from all over the world who will be seeking participation to better their ranks and have a chance in the Paris Paralympic Games. I am sure the Egyptian para powerlifters will be able to qualify in almost every weight category as almost all of them are world champions.”
Hossameddin Mustafa, president of the Egyptian Paralympic Committee (EPC), sent his congratulation to the team for their outstanding achievements and performance. “The new powerlifting head coach from Chile has positively affected the powerlifters’ performance and contributed to such a number of medals. I think we are moving in the right path.”
The 39-year-old Chile head coach, Andre Echeverria, said, “I have been working hard with the Egyptian powerlifters for two months and the new technology in training has paid back. I am sure that we are now on the right track and I assure you that we won’t collect less than six Paralympic medals if not more. The championship was an important station in our preparation plan and the athletes have still more to showcase in the coming events. I thank the Egyptian Paralympic Committee for their continuous support and cooperation.”
Moreno presented Shaaban Al-Khatib, head of the local organising committee and the EPC board members the trophy of excellence for their work.
Emad Ramadan, EPC treasurer, thanked all for organising such an event and the Egyptian powerlifters for their achievement. He also thanked the officials at Hassan Mustafa Hall headed by Mustafa Hadhoud, for their continuous support and cooperation.
From Cairo, the World Para Powerlifting World Cup now travels to Asia as the competition lands in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, for a four-day competition starting 5 December.
The 2023 World Para Powerlifting international season started in Tbilisi, Georgia, in April followed by the Veracruz 2023 Parapan American World Cup in June, the Dubai 2023 World Championships in August, and the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Para Games in October.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 9 November, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly