After its debut as weightlifting in the Tokyo 1964 Paralympic Games, the sport – now known as powerlifting – expanded from just male lifters with a spinal cord injury, to include athletes with physical impairments that affect their lower limbs or hips, or athletes with short stature. Female powerlifters made their Paralympic debut in 2000. Powerlifting is the ultimate test of upper body strength and you will often see athletes lifting more than three times their own body weight. Powerlifters are split into ten different categories based on bodyweight for each gender. Powerlifting consists of one discipline: a bench press. Unlike the able-bodied sport where athletes use their feet on the floor to assist the bench press, Paralympic athletes lie totally flat on a completely different style of bench Each competitor has two minutes to complete their attempt. When the lifter has the bar under full control, they must wait until they receive the command ‘start’. Then they have to lower the bar in a controlled manner and definitively stop it on the chest. Next, they press it upwards, lock out both elbows simultaneously and hold the bar under control until the referees command to rack. At least two white lights are required from the three referees for a good lift. A red light indicates a bad lift. Athletes have three attempts and the winner is the athlete that lifts the heaviest weight. In the third round, two weight changes are permitted. The weight change can be higher or lower. No changes are allowed if the lifter has already been called to the platform by the speaker, and/or if the bar has already been loaded. To attempt a new record it must exceed the previous one set by a minimum of 0.5kg. Where a world record is broken during the actual three lifts of competition the 0.5kg does not count towards the competition total but is rounded down to the full kilogram. The jury may allow a fourth attempt for a world record. This adds suspense to the competition as a lifter could break the world record but may not win gold. Powerlifting offers a tense and dramatic spectacle where coaches have to be good strategists as their athletes battle to out-lift their rivals.

Paralympic Sports A-Z: Powerlifting
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