Photo: Paralympics GB
Maidenhead’s Louise Sugden claimed her first ever Paralympic medal last week in the para powerlifting -86kg class but had a nervy wait to see if her bronze medal winning lift would be accepted by the judges.
In a thrilling competition, which saw the world record broken four times, by three different athletes, Sugden saved her best for last, lifting 131kgs on her third attempt.
The lift would have been good enough to beat the previous world record, had it not already been shattered by Nigeria’s Folashade Oluwafemiayo, who won gold with 152kg and China’s Zheng Feifel taking silver with a lift of 139kg.
Sugden produced a lift of 127kg in the first round, failed to register a lift on her second attempt, and then managed 131kg in the third and final round. However, her coach had to move quickly to get the lift validated after it had initially been given as a ‘no lift’. Sugden took her spot on the podium ahead of Egyptian athlete Amany Ali, who also lifted 131kg but was pushed into fourth by virtue of weighing more than Sugden.
Sugden said: “I still think I’m going to wake up at some point! But I think I’ve got a great coaching team. I’ve worked really hard and I’m just proud that it’s paid off.
“After the second lift, I think I was so annoyed with myself for not getting it, that it just gave me that fire that I needed to go out and get the last one.
“We knew that we were pushing people to their limits with that weight, I was there as well. But we knew that technically, I was slightly stronger, and I think that just paid off today.”
Appeals are common in powerlifting and Sugden always had faith the no lift decision would be overturned.
“I just thought it felt good,” she added. “I didn’t know what it failed on, I think it was press sequence, but I was pretty confident that if Tom [coach] thinks it is a good lift he will appeal, and if he doesn’t think it’s a good lift. He won’t appeal it.
“So, to see him run over there, I was like: ‘Okay, we’re on the same page here.’ But to see it overturned was brilliant, absolutely amazing.”
Sugden brought home one of three powerlifting medals for Paralympics GB, after Mickey Yule and Olivia Broome also won bronze earlier in the programme.
“It’s not a bad return, is it? I think we knew that there was a possibility of coming back with two,” said Sugden.
“I think three is fantastic and just it shows that all our hard work is paying off.”
Sugden took up para-powerlifting in 2017 after retiring from international basketball in August 2016. She achieved almost instant success, winning silver at the Commonwealth Games in 2018 and gold medals at the Ready Steady Tokyo events in 2019 and Manchester World Cup in 2020.
She still coaches wheelchair basketball in her spare time, having competed in the sport for her country at both the Beijing and London Games.
Her success was celebrated by family and friends back home in Berkshire, and didn’t go unnoticed by Maidenhead MP Theresa May, who said: “Like the Olympics preceding them; these Paralympic Games have been like no other and I know that Louise has trained exceptionally hard, which makes her achievement all the more special.
Louise has done her community, and country proud. I want to join everyone in Maidenhead in congratulating Louise on her spectacular performance and her hard-fought Bronze Medal.”