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The Australian Para-powerlifting team has scored some encouraging results in their first international competition in two years at the Tbilisi 2021 World Para-Powerlifting Championships.

The team of Hani Watson, Kaia Scholl, Janel Manns and Ben Wright competed strongly in the Georgian capital throughout the 10 days of competition against the world’s best.

“The World Championships was one of the most competitive fields. Leading into the Commonwealth Games it gives us a lot of good experience in getting back out on the international platform after two years of not being able to compete internationally,” Australian Para-powerlifting head coach Simon Bergner said.

On day two of competition Scholl set an Oceania record in what Bergner described as a great result.

“Kaia’s previous best bench-press was 58 kilograms, so she had a huge improvement and set a new personal best of 68 kilograms,” he said. “She made her opening lift at 64 kilograms and then her third lift was 68k for a 10kg PB improvement.”

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Newcomer Watson competed in her first ever international Para-event, in the women’s over 86 kilogram category, to finish in an impressive eighth position. With a final lift of 120 kilograms, she also secured an Oceania record.

“For Hani to finish eighth in the world is a huge achievement being her first international event and only her second Para-powerlifting event. She was extremely happy with that.”

After a hiatus due to a shoulder injury, Manns competed in the women’s up to 61 kilogram category and finished 13th.

“Janel is coming back from an injury, so the competition was all about getting some confidence, getting back on the platform and being back under the bar. She benched 54 kilograms, which was good coming back from her injury,” Bergner said.

Wright competed in the men’s up to 88 kilogram class, however he was unable to produce a lift for the first time in his career at a World Championship event.“

Ben had some technical errors where he missed all three lifts, which wasn’t the result we were hoping for. We couldn’t make adjustments on the second and third lift to get him back in the competition,” Bergner said.

On the final day of competition, Watson, Scholl and Wright took to the stage in the Mixed Team event in a pool of 10 national teams, however the Aussie side did not progress beyond the heat phase.

“It was a great experience as it was our first ever team event for Australia,” Bergner said.

“The overall experience of the event has given a good base for our team leading into the Commonwealth Games.”

The team will next compete internationally at the 2022 Regional Championships in South Korea in June before the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England in July.

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By: Lucy Hunt, Paralympics Australia
Posted: 14 December 2021