Ready for Rio: Powerlifting, 16 facts

By Jillian Clarke | Oct. 02, 2014, 12 p.m. (ET)


Four-time Paralympian Mary Stack has competed in every Paralympic Games since the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games.

With only 707 days left until the Rio 2016 Paralympics begin, make sure to power through these 16 facts about Paralympic powerlifting:

1. Paralympic history
The Tokyo 1964 Games first introduced the sport of weightlifting as a Paralympic event. It wasn’t until the New York/ Stoke Mandeville 1984 Paralympic Games when powerlifting was introduced as a Paralympic sport. Weightlifting was then removed from the Games after the Barcelona 1992 Games.

2. Weight classes
Men and women compete in different weight classes for Paralympic powerlifting. Men’s weight classes include:  49kg, 54kg, 59kg, 65kg, 72kg, 80kg, 88kg, 97kg, 107kg and +107kg classes. Women’s weight classes include: 41kg, 45kg, 50kg, 55kg, 61kg, 67kg, 73kg, 79kg, 86kg and +86kg divisions.

3. Classifications
Athletes with variations of ability can participate in Paralympic powerlifting, but athletes can only have a maximum of a 20 degree loss of extension in their arms.

4. Objective
For Paralympic powerlifting, the goal is to successfully lower the bar to the chest and then raise the bar up while fully extending the arms. Lifters get three attempts and must increase the weight of the bar by 1kg after each attempt. The lifter who lifts the heaviest weight with the steadiest form wins in each of the 20 body weight classes.

5. The bench press
The bench press is the only lift performed by Paralympic powerlifters. Lifters lie on their back with the weighted bar resting above the lifter’s head on a rack. Lifters must extend the arms straight up and remove the bar from the rack. The lifter then lowers the bar to the chest, holds for a short pause and then lifts the bar back above the head and onto the rack.

6. Growing popularity
A total of 10 countries competed in four medal events at powerlifting’s Paralympics debut. At the London 2012 Games, 61 countries participated in 20 events for the sport.

7. Women in powerlifting
The Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games were the first Games to feature events for women’s Paralympic powerlifting. That year, a total of 92 women competed. Since then, the number of female participants for Paralympic powerlifting has decreased, with only 80 women competing at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

8. The bench
Paralympic powerlifters perform their bench presses on a specially designed weightlifting bench. Each competitor is strapped to the bench during his or her round. The strap goes across part of the lower body to help keep athletes safe and stable during a lift.

9. Three attempts
Athletes get three chances to lift the bar. A fourth chance to lift the bar is permitted if the athlete is going for a record. However, the fourth attempt does not count towards the overall scoring.

10. Tie-breaker
If there is a tie, the lifter who weighs less and lifted more weight will take the gold. If athletes are the same weight, the athletes will go through a reweigh to determine a final winner.

11. White light, red light
Three judges decide whether or not a Paralympic powerlifter successfully completed a lift. Judges will show a white light to indicate a successful lift, while a red light signals an unsuccessful lift.

12. Unsuccessful lifts
Many things can deem a lift unsuccessful. For the bench press, things such as bouncing the bar off the chest, experiencing a downward motion while trying to extend the bar or not complying with the referee’s commands would result in red lights from the judges.

13. Team USA
The U.S. has won a total of nine medals— three gold, two silver and four bronze—for Paralympic powerlifting.

14. Countries to watch
China and Egypt first competed in Paralympic powerlifting at the Barcelona 1992 Paralympic Games. Since then, Egypt has won 19 gold medals and a total of 59 medals. China has 24 gold medals and a total of 58 medals.

15. London 2012
The U.S. did not bring home any medals for powerlifting at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. The Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games was the last time the U.S. won medals for powerlifting, which included one gold and one silver medal.

16. Where to watch in 2016
Paralympic powerlifting will take place in Barra at the Riocentro complex in Pavilion 2 in 2016. For the Games, the current exposition center will be turned into a powerlifting spectator’s dream. With approximately 6,500 seats, fans will get a great experience.

To learn more about Paralympic powerlifting, visit TeamUSA.org and USAPowerlifting.com.