Two gold medals were decided on the opening day of the powerlifting competition, with new world records posted in both the men’s up to 49kg and women’s up to 41kg categories at Riocentro Pavilion 2.
The surprise withdrawal of London 2012 Paralympic champion, Nigeria’s Yakubu Adesokan, in the men’s up to 49kg event saw Vietnam’s Van cong Le crowned the new champion, breaking the world and Paralympic records in the process.
He was made to work extremely hard, however, with Jordan’s Omar Qarada applying plenty of pressure, but Le finished with the gold medal and a new world record of 183kg.
Le broke the Paralympic record with his first attempt at 175kg but Qarada snatched the lead and the record back with a 177kg lift with his second attempt.
The pressure was then on Le as he failed with his second attempt of 179kg to remain in the silver medal position going into the final round.
However, Le lifted for the occasion with a successful 181kg effort to propel himself back into the lead and regain the Paralympic record.
Qarada then attempted to match Le’s mark at 181kg, but was unsuccessful which handed Vietnam its first gold medal of the Paralympics.
Le returned to the stage moments later to break his own world record of 182kg with a perfect lift of 183kg and was overcome with emotion as he did so.
Qarada had to settle for silver, while the bronze medal went to crowd favourite Nandor Tunkel who produced a lift of 155kg with his second attempt.
A delighted Tunkel said it was a dream come true to win the bronze medal.
“When I came to Rio at the start of the year I was sixth in the rankings, but before the Paralympics I was fourth so I hoped I could get a medal,” he said.
Tunkel’s bronze was the first medal for Hungary in the Rio 2016 Paralympics and he hopes it can inspire the rest of the team to perform well.
“I will first rest for a little while, but every Hungarian athlete is into supporting the team when they are not competing so I will be doing that,” he added.
Later in the afternoon, the women’s up to 41kg event was hotly contested with defending Paralympic and world champion Turkey’s Nazmiye Muratli breaking the world and Paralympic record on her way to gold.
Muratli lifted 104kg on her second attempt to break the previous world record mark of 103.5kg and retain her Paralympic crown ahead of China’s Zhe Cui, while Ni Nengah Widiasih, from Indonesia, took home the bronze with a successful lift of 95kg.
The Turkish star had one more attempt at improving the world record to 106kg, but she was unable to complete the lift.
Despite finishing in the silver medal position for three consecutive Paralympics, Cui was very excited with the end result.
“Before I arrived at the Paralympic Village I was confident I could win the gold medal, “she said.
“I felt very comfortable, but training wasn’t good so it was happy enough just to get a medal.
“I’m confident I can come back and I must take back that world record.”