Nur-Sultan 2019: Mohammed Khalaf goes for elusive gold

UAE’s Paralympic champion eager to take burden off shoulders

A male powerlifter lifting the bar UAE's Paralympic champion Mohammed Khalaf took silver at last year's Asia-Oceania Champs in Japan © • Hiroki Nishioka

Mohammed Khamis Khalaf is basking in the glory of a brilliant first half of 2019, with two gold medals won at World Cup events.

UAE’s strongman next seeks to grab a so far elusive World Para Powerlifting Championships title in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.

The men’s up to 88kg Paralympic champion said competing in the up to 97kg on Kazakh soil will be “special” as he grabbed silver twice at Worlds but never gold.

Khalaf is feeling fitter and stronger than ever, and ready to finally reach the first step of the podium following a month-long training camp in Thailand.

“I really want to win the gold this time. It will be nice to take the burden off my shoulders. I have trained very hard for this event; to be a tough competitor. I hope the World Championships turns out third time lucky for me,” UAE’s first Paralympic gold medallist said.

“During training, the focus was more on my strength. I have been also working hard to lose some weight to be fitter, so I am on a protein diet. I am aiming to lift more than my previous results and set a new world record.”

Khalaf lifted 220kg at both the Eger and Fazza World Cups. However, he knows the Worlds will be a different tournament. “The atmosphere, competition, everything is big. So, there’s pressure as well.

“Everybody has come here with lot of practice and hard work.”

Colombia’s Fabio Torres, still fresh from claiming the Americas title on home soil in Bogota, is expected to be a tough contender. Jordan’s former world champion Mutaz Aljuneidi is another top powerlifter to look out for.

But Khalaf’s coach Kacem Titou has high hopes for his athlete.

“It is his time. He is a strong contender. I hope he wins the gold. We have worked very hard and he is in perfect shape,” Titou said.

“The road to Tokyo 2020 Paralympics has already begun. So, it’s time for action.”

Khalaf will be in action on day six of competition (18 July) at Nur-Sultan 2019 which gets underway on Thursday.