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Para powerlifter Khalaf leads UAE challenge at Dubai 2021 World Cup

Khaleej Times logo Khaleej Times 18/06/2021 Team KT
a man standing in front of a crowd: Para powerlifter Khalaf leads UAE challenge at Dubai 2021 World Cup © Provided by Khaleej Times Para powerlifter Khalaf leads UAE challenge at Dubai 2021 World Cup

Local favourite and two-time Paralympic gold medallist Mohammed Khamis Khalaf will spearhead the hosts' challenge at the 11th Fazza Dubai Para Powerlifting World Cup that kicks off at the Dubai Club for People of Determination on Saturday.

Khalaf will joined by 14 members in the team that also includes two female powerlifters as the team aim to improve their world rankings in order to get slots for Tokyo 2020.

Around 300 para powerlifters from 62 nations will vie for glory at the Dubai event which is the last chance for them to improve their rankings in the road to the Games.

Russia have arrived here with biggest delegation of 18 athletes followed by Egypt (17), Japan (15) and hosts UAE (15).

With Paralympic and world champions in their ranks, China, Nigeria and Egypt are expected to produce strong performances in the Championships.

Aiming for second Paralympic spot

Khalaf, the Rio 2016 gold medallist in men's up to 88kg, was confident of a good show at his home event after a month-long training camp at Macedonia. The veteran powerlifter is aiming to secure a spot in men's up to 88kg in Dubai 2021 after having sealed his spot in upto 97 kg.

"A podium finish here will help me get closer to my target. But it will not be easy as everyone will be giving their best to get a ticket to Tokyo 2020. For me personally, this event is very important and special as I have had great results here in the past. There will be a lot of expectations on me. I will try to do my best," said Khalaf.

"In the last few months, I have worked really hard and raring to compete after a long time. I have also lost several kilos and feel fitter and stronger," said the 51-year-old who will compete after a gap of almost two years.

China, Nigeria, Egypt strong teams

Khalaf is expected to face strong challenge from reigning world champion Ye Jixiong and Paralympic medallist Gu Xiaofei from China, Jordan's Paralympic medallist Abdelkareem Khattab.

Egypt's three-time Paralympic champion Sherif Osman, who will be joined by fellow Paralympic medallists Mohammed Ahmed and Amr Mosaad in Egypt team, is aiming to take the gold in men's up to 59kg.

Team Russia will be also look to make an impact through reigning world champions Vladimir Balynets (men's upto 49kg) and Vladimir Krivulya (men's upto 54kg).

World junior champions

Among other top names, Paralympic medallist Rasool Mohsin of Iraq will be among the favourites in men's -72kg. However, Nur Sultan, 2019 world junior champions Bonnie Bunyau Gustin (Malaysia), also senior world champion, and Donato Telesca (Italy) might spring a surprise.

In women's event, Nigeria will be led by multiple-time Paralympic champion Lucy Ejike (women's upto 61kg), while China will have names like Paralympic and world champions Guo Lingling (upto 41kg), Zhe Cui (upto 45kg) and Tan Yujiao (upto 67kg) among others.

Tight contest in women's event

Indonesia's Rio 2016 bronze medallist Ni Nengah Widiasih would be another name to watch out for in women's -41kg category.

"With all the top players here, the event will be a big test ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Games. I want to give my 100 per cent and get a good result here as well. That will boost my confidence ahead for the Games," said Widiasih, a gold medallist at the recent Bangkok 2021 World Cup.

Among others to watch out for in women's event will be Turkey's London 2012 and Rio 2016 champion Nazmiye Muratli, Egyptian world champion Rehab Ahmed (both upto 50kg), Kazakhstan's Paralympic medallist Raushan Koishibayeva in (upto 67kg) among others.

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