Malaysia’s junior world champion Bonnie Bunyau Gustin emerged the biggest surprise of the third day of competition at the World Para powerlifting Championships in Nur-Sultan, clinching his first senior title even as former champions faltered with shocking defeats.
With a calm and composed look, Gustin opened with a lift of 185kg to stay behind Algeria’s Hocine Bettir after the first round. The 20-year-old Malaysian went for a 12 kg higher weight in his second attempt, only to clear the bar at 197kg and lead the pack.
He then pushed a giant 207 kg in his third attempt, leaving others behind, for his first senior World Championships title with a junior world record. Bettir finished at a distant second on 194kg, followed by Amir Jafari Arangeh on 193kg.
“I am very happy. I never expected to win the gold here with such strong competitors (Nigeria and China) in my category. But I believed in myself, in my hard work and discipline that I follow in my training. This is my biggest win ever,” said an overwhelmed Gustin, who was sixth in Mexico 2017 senior World Championships.
He now aims to go for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics gold.
It was heartbreaking for Nigerian fans as world record holder Paul Kehinde of Nigeria exited with no lifts at 194kg and 195kg.
“There are wins and defeats. This is sports,” said the legend, whose world record stands at a massive 221 kg.
Ejike dominates again
While there were shocks, there were some expected winners. Nigerian multiple-time Paralympic champion Lucy Ejike lived up to her promise and added another world title to her glittering career in women’s up to 61 kg.
The 41-year-old Ejike comfortably pushed 132 kg in her third attempt to clinch the gold, ahead of Uzbekistan’s Ruza Kuzieva’s 125 kg. Russia’s Rayisa Toporkova lifted 123kg in her second attempt to break her own European record and took the bronze.
The Nigerian legend said she wanted to go for more, but her coach advised her not to. “I am saving my power and best for Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. You need to watch and wait for me in Tokyo.”
Ejike believes “tenacity and self-discipline” is the reason behind her success. “Becoming a champion is easier than maintaining being a champion. And I get inspired when people look up to me and expect from me; I have been champion for so many years and I always try to achieve more to inspire the next generation,” the world record holder added.
Shevchuk misses world record
Earlier, Mariana Shevchuk yet again proved that she is the next legend in the making. After a brilliant last year, the Ukrainian came out with yet another power-packed performance to lift her first world title. Focused and fearless, she cleared the bar at 125kg in her first attempt and then 128kg, enough to take the gold.
However, the European champion missed the world record failing in her third and fourth attempts for 131.5kg. “I am happy and sad too because I couldn’t get the world record here. I trained hard. There was mental pressure,” said Shevchuk, who set a world record of 131 kg at the Fazza 2019 World Para Powerlifting event in Dubai, this February.
It was however disappointing for multiple-time Paralympic champion Amelia Perez, who failed to get even one successful attempt.
China’s Rio 2016 bronze medallist Xiao Cuijuan finished second on 126kg followed by former Paralympic champion from Russia, Tamara Podpalnaya who managed 122kg in her third round.