【Center News】Para Powerlifting Gold Medalist Rahman meets Japanese children in Tokyo
On July 24, the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center held a summer break parent-and-child event titled "i enjoy! Seminar — Meet Para Powerlifting Gold Medalist Rahman!" at the Nippon Foundation Building. The event is part of a program designed to teach children about the Paralympic Games and other para sports. It attracted many elementary and junior high school students who applied through newspaper ads, social networking sites and more.
The main actor of the event was Siamand Rahman, Iranian superstar and +107-kilogram class para powerlifting gold medalist at both the London and Rio Paralympic Games. At the Rio Paralympics he lifted 305 kilograms, becoming the first ever to break the 300-kilogram mark. Comedy duo "Ochanomizu Danshi" of Yoshimoto Creative Agency provided the emcee and helped liven up the event with laughter.
Learning about the Paralympics and Powerlifting
Emcees Omoshiro Sato (left) and Shiihashi Justaway of Ochanomizu Danshi.
The event kicked off with a quiz from "I'm POSSIBLE," the official educational material of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) distributed to elementary schools across the country this April. One question referred to the colors in the "three agitos" of the Paralympic symbol, and another asked the children whether or not they thought the world record of the regular marathon was faster than that of the wheelchair marathon. When the children began to warm up with laughter, powerlifter Eri Yamamoto-MacDonald appeared on stage to explain about the sport and its rules.
"In para powerlifting, you lie down on a bench and try to lift up the heaviest weight as possible. Among non-para athletes it is called the bench press. But you cannot just lift it; you have to pause just above your breast, then lift it. There are three referees, each holding a red flag and a white flag. If at least two of them hold up the white flag, your lift was a success. You get three tries, and the heaviest try is the one that is recorded. Powerlifting is the sport of gracefully lifting heavy weights."
She also carefully explained how powerlifting is divided into different weight classes, and that when your name is called at an event you only have two minutes to lie down, prepare yourself and remove the weight from the rack.
The children took notes with serious expressions.
Ms. Maeda, Paralympic Support Center staff and "Para Sports Expert," giving a lecture
Rahman's grand performance in response to the children's cheers!
After the children learned about powerlifting, it was finally time for Rahman to appear. When Rahman came out with a kind smile and his mighty bulk of 169 kilograms, many children cried out, "He is so huge!" Rahman said, "Thank you for inviting me to such a wonderful country," then went right into a powerlifting demonstration.
At the Rio Paralympic Games Rahman lifted 305 kilograms, but at this event he aimed for a moderate 220 kilograms because he was scheduled to attend an exhibition match three days later. He gradually worked up to 220 kilograms, and when he reached it, seemed to lift it so easily. To the delight of the children, he even put on a performance of lifting it in place three times. His coach Ahmad Deljavan, watching at his side, got excited and egged him on to keep going, so Rahman actually went up to 250 kilograms. The children were at the edge of their seats and the venue was loud with their cheers. They instantly became fans.
Rahman, powered by the children's cries of "Rahman! Rahman!" The children were captivated by his performance!
At the event was Hajime Ujiro, men's 80-kilogram class powerlifter and holder of the Japan record (186.5 kg). He marveled at Rahman's abilities saying, "He is almost beyond human... Unlike regular powerlifting, in para powerlifting we cannot use muscles in our lower body or back. We can only use our upper body strength. But he has broken even the non-para record."
Hisako Yoshida, former world champion and Secretary-General of the Japanese Para Powerlifting Federation, was the referee for the day. After the event she said, "I think everyone only saw Rahman's kind smiling face, but it was incredible to see the sudden change in his expression in the moment of lifting, from soft and kind to intense concentration. I saw his greatness in that change."
Rahman showing his charming side by taking a selfie with Omoshiro Sato
A student asking a question to the Iranian Paralympian!
"Look forward to my gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympic Games."
The world champion with a kind smile
After the unbelievable performance it was time for questions, and the cascade of questions from the children seemed never-ending.
— What did it feel like when you lifted the weight that broke the world record? "When I lifted the weight at the Rio Games, it filled me up with happiness."
— How do you get so big? I play soccer. "The secret is to eat a lot and to practice. Good luck!"
— I am in a dance club, and several times I have wanted to quit. Do you ever feel this way? If you do, how do you keep up your motivation? "When I first became an Iranian representative, I lifted 120 kilograms. One year later at a junior event I lifted 230 kilograms and broke the world record. But one time, a strong rival appeared in the same category... It was tough, but I overcame it by wanting to practice more."
— When you are lifting a very heavy weight, don't you get worried that it might fall on you? "I always practice. Also, during practice we have three assistants and at official events we have five assistants, so there are no worries of dropping the weight on yourself. (laughs)"
The children offered a variety of comments on attending the event.
"I thought he must be bigger than a sumo wrestler." (Taiga Otsuki) "I learned a lot about powerlifting." (Tatsuo Otsuki) "The more the bar would bend, the more impressed I was. I also learned more about the Paralympic Games." (Tomomi Sakai)
Rahman's message to the children and their futures was, "I want you to know that there is nothing you cannot do. Remember, if you try, you will eventually succeed."
He ended the event with the powerful message, "I am training hard to get the gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, so look forward to that."
Post-event group photo with Japanese Para Powerlifting Federation Secretary-General Yoshida and others
Rahman gave an Iran team pin badge to each child.
text&photo by Parasapo