Jamil El Shebli claims third Paralympic gold for Jordan in Tokyo

Mena countries dominate podium after tight battle in weightlifting competition

Jamil El Shebli claimed Jordan’s third Paralympic gold of Tokyo 2020, after a hard-fought competition in the men’s +107kg category, that resulted in Mena countries dominating the podium in Japan.

After an intense contest of the tightest of margins with Iran’s Mansour Pourmirzaei, El Shebli did enough to secure his first Paralympic title winning by bodyweight. Pourmirzaei took silver, with Iraq’s Al-Ageeli claiming bronze.

It was nothing short of a strategic masterclass by El Shebli that earned him his first Paralympic title. By starting with the heaviest weight on his attempt, the 42-year-old was the last to lift in each round.

This advantage allowed the Rio bronze medalist to follow the progress of his Iranian rival, and being 25kg lighter than Mourmirzaei, he knew that he would just have to match him on attempts to surpass him on the results board.

This left it to the 40-year-old Iranian to set the bar on the second attempt, lifting 241kg, which El Shebli matched. It was then on the final lift, the Iranian raised the weight and the bar to 246kg. It was an ambitious increase, a risk that failed to pay off as he was unable to complete the lift. By the time El Shebli went under the bar, the gold medal was already his.

El Shebli was clearly pleased on the podium as he collected his prize, it had been a long-time coming. This was the man from Amman’s fifth Paralympics, having competed in the shot put in Athen’s and Beijing where he won silver, and then finished fourth in London 2012.

In Rio 2016, he switched to powerlifting and earned bronze in a final that was dominated by a legend now sorely missed in the sport.

It was an emotional final for Pourmirzaei, who if he had won said he would dedicate his gold medal to the memory of the legendary Siamand Rahman, the Iranian powerlifting legend who had won gold in +100kg weight category in 2012 and +107kg category in 2016.

Rahman, whose astounding world record of 310kg, set in Rio 2016, is almost 70kg heavier than the heaviest lift today, died following a cardiac arrest in March 2020.

It was an impressive performance too from Iraq’s Faris Al-Ageeli. The London 2012 silver-medalist was the only competitor to complete all three lifts, comfortably securing him the bronze medal.

All attention, rightly, will be now on the Jordanian’s record powerlifting haul. El Shebli closed out what has been a remarkable campaign for the Jordan powerlifters. His gold is added to Abdelkareem Khattab’s record-breaking win in the men’s -88kg final and Omar Qarada’s gold in the men’s -49kg class last Thursday.

Up until this games, Jordan had only won a single Paralympic gold medal, which was in table tennis in Sydney 2000. In the confines of the Tokyo International Forum, Jordan’s powerlifters have quadrupled the kingdom’s all-time gold medal tally, placing them firmly on the map as a dominant force in strength sports.

Updated: August 30th 2021, 1:31 PM