Nur-Sultan 2019: Mohammed Khalaf eyes elusive Worlds gold

Mohammed Khamis Khalaf is basking in the glory of a brilliant first half of 2019. Two gold medals in World Cups is giving him all the reason to feel confident and now, the veteran powerlifter wants to grab the elusive World Championships title in Nur Sultan.

Khalaf, the reigning Paralympic champion in 88 kg weight category, has finished second twice at the Worlds and thus he says, “the Worlds title is special”. He believes he can do it this time, with his body feeling great. He also looks fitter and stronger having shed some kilos recently following a month-long training camp in Thailand.

“I really want to win the gold this time. It will be nice to take the burden off my shoulders. I have trained very hard for this event; to be a tough competitor. I hope the championships turns out third time lucky for me,” said the 50-year-old, who is the first ever Emirati to win a Paralympic gold medal at the 2004 Athens Games.

“During training, the focus was more on my strength. I have been also working hard to lose some weight to be fitter, so I am on a protein diet. I am aiming to lift more than my previous results and set a new world record,” he said.

Khalaf had pressed 220kg in both Eger and Fazza World Cup in Dubai, something nobody in the men’s up to 97kg field had been able to match him.

However, the powerlifter knows that the World Championships will be altogether a different tournament. “The atmosphere, competition, everything is big. So, there’s pressure as well.”

“Everybody has come here with lot of practice and hard work.” Colombia’s Fabio Torres, who is still fresh from claiming the Americas title on home soil in Bogota, is expected to be a tough contender in the weight category.

Jordan’s former world champion Mutaz Aljuneidi is another top player to watch out for in the category.

These name notwithstanding, UAE coach Kacem Titou has high hopes from his ward and friend, Khalaf. “It is his time. He is a strong contender. I hope he wins the gold. We have worked very hard and he is in perfect shape,” the coach said.

“The road to Tokyo 2020 Paralympics has already begun. So, it’s time for action.”

Khalaf will be in action on Day 6 of the competition, i.e on July 18 at the Nur Sultan 2019 World Para Powerlifting Championships that kicked off with the Junior Championships on Friday (July 12, 2019).

Over 450 powerlifters from 76 countries are taking part in the eighth edition of the championships.

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