F.I.T.T: Paralympic Powerlifting Demonstration
Guest author: Jessica Madrigal
From June 4 to June 7, 2009, World Sport Chicago teamed with USA Weightlifting to present the 2009 Pan-American/Ibero-American Weightlifting Championships and the U.S. National Championships. During this time, nearly 280 athletes from 23 nations assembled in Chicago for this world-class weightlifting competition. The Pan-American Championships featured weightlifters from across the Western Hemisphere and Spain, while the U.S. Nationals featured the best athletes from across the country competing for the title of National Champion.
In hosting this event, World Sport Chicago hoped to highlight the sport of weightlifting as well as provide Chicago with the opportunity to see some of the world's best international competitors. World Sport saw this as the perfect opportunity to offer clinics and demonstrations to educate Chicago's youth about weightlifting and the training that goes into it.
Visitors to the Championship events had the opportunity to attend many different demonstrations and information sessions, including a Paralympic Powerlifting Demo performed by 3-time Paralympian Mary Stack and two local powerlifters from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Powerlifting is an official sport for athletes with physical disabilities at the Paralympic Games, and for athletes with cognitive disabilities at the Special Olympics (SOI) World Games. The sport of powerlifting is also enjoyed by other disability populations in national, regional, and local competitions.
Minimum disability requirements for each population in Paralympic Powerlifting are specified at http://www.paralympic.org. The specific eligibility requirements for Special Olympic Powerlifting are described on the SOI web site at http://www.specialolympics.org.
Powerlifting made its debut as a medal sport in 1964 at the second Paralympic Games. At first it was offered only to lifters with spinal cord injuries, but current competition is open to male and female athletes with physical disabilities such as dwarfism, amputation/limb loss, spinal cord injury/wheelchair-users, and cerebral palsy/brain injury/stroke.
In both Paralympic and Special Olympics competition, lifters are classified according to gender and body weight. Body weight is adjusted for athletes with amputations in Paralympic competition so that they may fairly compete with athletes who have other disabilities. Athletes draw lots to determine order of weigh-in and lifts. To begin the competition, the athletes are categorized within the 10 different weight classes (male and female); then they each lift three times (competing in their respective weight class). The heaviest "good lift" (within the weight class) is the lift used for final placing in the competition.
Powerlifting events in Special Olympics competition include bench press, squat, deadlift, combined bench press and deadlift, and combined bench press, squat, and deadlift. Unified Sports opportunities are offered in the same events. Individual skills competition in events such as push-ups and sit-ups is offered for athletes of lower ability.
The only event included in Paralympic competition is the bench press. The body position on the bench is modified for Paralympic athletes in the bench press. Athletes with physical disabilities must lie with the head, trunk, legs, and both feet extended on the bench (a longer bench is used for competition). Athletes may be strapped to the bench as needed for stability. Athletes with cerebral palsy and related neurological conditions compete with the knees flexed and an approved wedge under the knees.
Mary Stack of Ann Arbor, MI (featured in video clip) was part of the 2000, 2004, and 2008 U.S. Paralympic Powerlifting Teams. Although many people take up powerlifting after acquiring an injury, Mary was born with her disability and has been lifting for 19 years. She began lifting weights as a sophomore in high school after one of her teachers recommended it. Mary did not enjoy typical sports and saw weightlifting as an outlet to have fun and stay fit.
In her demonstration at the 2009 Pan-American/Ibero-American Weightlifting Championships and the U.S. National Championships, Mary completed two different lifts. In her first lift, she opened with 185 pounds and lifted it 4 times. In her second lift, she selected 225 pounds and lifted it 2 times. She is currently training for the 2012 London games by committing to a 6-day workout plan each week that includes both weight training and cardiovascular components.
After growing to include numerous disability groups, the sport is now working to incorporate rules similar to those of lifters without disabilities. Powerlifting is said to be the fastest growing Paralympic sport in the world, with more than 109 countries participating.
Paralympic and Special Olympics powerlifting rules are based upon the official rules of the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF). To learn more about the rules associated with powerlifting, visit http://www.powerlifting-ipf.com. Equipment specifications are described in the Paralympic powerlifting rules (http://www.paralympic.org), the Special Olympics powerlifting rules (http://www.specialolympics.org), and the International Powerlifting Federation rules (http://www.powerlifting-ipf.com).