Powerlifting at the Paralympic Games

1984 was the first year that the sport of powerlifting was featured in the Paralympic Games. Prior to that there have been powerlifting competitions that where part of weightlifting. Powerlifting at the Paralympics consists of the bench press. Initially events were for male athletes with spinal injuries. In the next number of years the sport included other disability groups and implemented rules that were similar to powerlifting for the able-bodied athletes. Women events were included from 2000.

In 1992, a decision was made to feature only powerlifting and not weightlifting. The 1992 Barcelona Paralympic Games had 25 countries competing for medals. Fast forward to 1996 in Atlanta, this number has risen to 58. Then in 2000, when a women’s category was finally introduced, powerlifting was practiced in every continent. Today, more than 110 countries participate in powerlifting.

Paralympic powerlifting is essentially a test of upper body strength, the bench press. Athletes must lie down on a special bench, lower the bar to their chest, hold it motionless (pause), and bench it back up (arms locked out), while maintaining control of the weight through the full range of motion. The rules of powerlifting are very strict, and athletes must follow the commands of the referee which are “start” and “rack”.

Athletes have three attempts at benching, if they have a successful bench they must increase the weight on their next bench by at least 1kg. A fourth bench may be done to attempt a record, but it won’t count towards their score.

The athlete who benches the most weight in their category, and within the three scoring benches, wins a gold medal. In the event of a tie, the lighter athlete wins gold. There are 10 different weight classes for both men and women to compete in. Just to give you an idea, most competing athletes are able to bench press three times their body weight.

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