The UAE's Mohammed Khamis Khalaf won the the UAE's first gold at the international sporting event after bench pressing a whopping 220 kg in the 88 kg powerlifting competition. Sheikh Mohammed said that Khalaf's spirit "inspires us all."
Khalaf beat out Brazil’s Evanio da Silva, who took silver, and Mongolia’s Sodnompiljee Enkhbayar, who took bronze. This marks Khalaf's second gold medal. He also took home the top prize in the 82.5 kg category at the Athens Paralympic Games in 2004.
The UAE champion suffers from leg paralysis caused by polio he contracted as a child. He spent the first ten years of his life being homeschooled because his family feared that society would taunt him about his condition.
In college, he attended the Dubai Club for Special Sports because he wanted to tease his physical limits. “The day I tried it out, I got to see for the first time that a handicapped person doesn’t just do sports for fun. He can actually train hard and compete,” Khalaf said .
While China's Ye Jixiong and Iran's Seyedhamed Solhipouravanji were strong favorites to win the competition, neither managed a podium finish.
The Paralympic's bench press competition is open to any minimally disabled athlete who can extend their arms within 20 degrees of full extension during a lift. The powerlifting competition was first made part of the Paralympics in1984.
Prior to Khalaf's gold medal win, Abdullah Sultan Al Aryani already won two silver medals for the UAE in the in the R7 men’s 50 meter rifle SH1 competition and the R1 10 meter air rifle standing SH1.