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Epstein ends decorated powerlifting career
Australian Paralympic Powerlifting Coach Ray Epstein has announced his retirement from the sport, bringing an end to a dazzling career that has spanned more than 35 years.
During his time as both a coach and athlete, Epstein has played a major role in the sport’s development in Australia and has been the guiding force behind some of Australia’s great Para-powerlifting athletes including Abebe Fekadu, Deahnne McIntyre and triple Paralympian Darren Gardiner.
Under his tenure as head coach, Australia has maintained its international competitiveness in an increasingly cut-throat international arena now dominated by countries from the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
Despite the tough environment and through Epstein’s coaching expertise, Australia has won three silver medals at the Paralympic Games since 2000 and a further three medals (two silver, one bronze) at the World Championships since 2006.
Prior to his coaching career, Epstein became a decorated powerlifter following a gym accident that left him paralysed. In his 17-year athletic career, he competed at two Paralympic Games and won the 1994 World Championships, as well as silver at the 1990 and 1991 World Championships.
“Ray’s contribution to the development of Paralympic powerlifting, not only as an active competitor but as a coach and a visionary of the sport has been invaluable and will be missed,” said Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) Chief Executive, Jason Hellwig.
“Under his leadership and through the support of the APC which manages powerlifting, the program has grown significantly. Ray has built the foundations to ensure our historically strong performances in powerlifting continue in a sport that is getting tougher and tougher to do well in.”
For Epstein however, the satisfaction in watching the way powerlifting could change an athlete’s life was his biggest joy as a coach.
“The big thing for me has been seeing people develop from basically coming in with very little training or experience in sport, and being able to help them realise their potential and in some cases go the whole way to the Paralympic level and win medals. It’s pretty special to be a part of that and help people realise what they can achieve,” said Epstein.
“A highlight for me was Darren Gardiner’s silver medal in Beijing. That was pretty special. It was a very close competition and we managed to come out with a silver medal. It’s certainly very memorable for me.”
Now with the freedom that comes with retirement, Epstein is looking forward to reclaiming his weekends and continuing in his role as Chief Executive of Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association in Queensland, comfortable that the future of his beloved sport is in safe hands.
“The APC is currently undergoing the process of appointing a new head coach in consultation with Ray,” said Hellwig.
“There are now a number of powerlifting coaches in Australia, largely due to the work he has done to expand the program and we’re confident there will be a smooth transition for the athletes training for Rio and beyond.”
By Rebekka Wake