Kenyan powerlifters chase Paris Paralympics berths

Gabriel Magu

Gabriel Magu trains at Nyayo Stadium on June 7, 2024 Gym in preparations for World Para Powerlifting Olympic qualifiers in Georgia.

Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Hellen Wawira is the highest-ranked Kenyan in ninth place in her category.
  • Gabriel Magu, who is also the Team captain, is eyeing his second Paralympics.

Olympians Hellen Wawira and Gabriel Magu lead Kenya’s assault at the World Para Powerlifting World Cup starting on Thursday in Tbilisi, Georgia.

The week-long competition is the last qualifying round for para powerlifters for the 2024 Paralympics scheduled from August 28 to September 8 in Paris.

Besides Wawira, who will compete in the up to women’s 41 kilograms category, and Magu, who will field in the up to men’s 72kgs, others in the team are Jeremiah Maringa Ngungi and Joyce Njuguna.

The Kenya National Paralympic Committee (KNPC) secretary general, Stanley Mutuma, said that those winning medals at the championships will get direct tickets to the Paris Summer Games.

“A good performance will also see the powerlifters improve their world ranking which is also one of the modes used in qualifying,” said Mutuma, adding that a top eight world ranking after the championships will secure spots at the Paris Games.

Wawira, the 2022 Commonwealth Games lightweight bronze medallist, is hoping to qualify for her second Paralympic Games after competing at the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics.

Para Powerlifting Championships

Wawira, 32, is the highest-ranked Kenyan in ninth place in her category. Wawira’s run at the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics ended with a fifth-place finish in the 41kg after benching 93Kgs. 

Magu, who is also the Team captain, is eyeing his second Paralympics after his debut at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, having won silver at the 2018 American Para Powerlifting Championships.

Magu, 37, has been to two World Cup events in 2016 in Malaysia and 2020 in Nigeria, as well as the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

“I have been working hard all through this year, improving on my lifting techniques and I hope for the best,” said Magu, who has a personal best of 150kg and is currently 23rd in the up to 72kgs category. 

Njuguna, the 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, hit the peak of her career when she won two medals; gold and bronze during the 2013 World Championships in Dubai.

Njuguna is currently ranked 18th in the 79kg section and has a silver from the 2020 World Cup in Nigeria.

High-performance ranking

Maringa, who won bronze at this year's World Championships Cup in Egypt in March, hopes to replicate the feat in Tbilisi and punch her ticket to Paris.

Maringa is ranked 21st and has a career-best of 137 kg in the 54 kg category. 

So far seven Kenyans have qualified for the 2024 Paris Paralympics. 

They include Kennedy Ogada in para-cycling, Asiya Sururu in para-rowing, and Stacy Neema and Julieta Moipo in taekwondo.

The rest from athletics are Tokyo Paralympics 1,500m bronze medallist Nancy Chelangat (1,500 T11), Mary Waithera (1,500 T11), and Wesley Sang (1,500 T46).

Mutuma said eight Kenyan athletes have been lined up for qualification through high-performance ranking following their performance at the World Para-Athletics Championships held last month in Kobe, Japan.