Commonwealth Games: Para-powerlifter Kalai Vanen hits personal best to finish ninth on Gold Coast

Singapore para-powerlifter Kalai Vanen successfully lifted 156kg to surpass his previous personal best of 155kg.
Singapore para-powerlifter Kalai Vanen successfully lifted 156kg to surpass his previous personal best of 155kg.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

GOLD COAST, Australia - He was never in the running for a Commonwealth Games medal but the fist pump from Singapore para-powerlifter Kalai Vanen after his third and final attempt on Tuesday evening (April 10) spoke volumes.

His nails painted the Singapore colours of red and white, he successfully lifted 156kg to surpass his previous personal best of 155kg.

He achieved that mark at last December's World Para Powerlifting Championships in Mexico.

The 59-year-old, who was the oldest of the 10 competitors at the Carrara Sports Arena, eventually finished ninth in the men's heavyweight (+72kg) division.

The personal trainer failed in his first lift of 150kg but succeeded on his second attempt at the same weight.

"I should have got the first lift. My technique was okay, but I think I waited too long before I pressed and that allowed the referees to see something (to rule a no lift)," he said.

"If I had done that, my third lift would have been far better than what I actually did. I would have tried for 160kg.

"The no lift dented my confidence a bit. But the sports psychologist got me back to where I needed to be. I did the second lift comfortably and the third lift as well."

Based on the sport's points calculations that takes into consideration factors like body weight and the weight lifted by competitors, Kalai finished with 135.1 points for ninth spot.

The top three were Nigerian Abdulazeez Ibrahim (191.9), Malaysian Jong Yee Khie (188.7) and Indian Sachin Chaudhary (181.0).

In early 2015 at the age of 56, he picked up para-powerlifting at the behest of his friend and Singapore Disability Sports Council vice-president Raja Singh.

Singapore was hosting the Asean Para Games (APG) that year and the association needed representatives in the sport.

Kalai, who lost his left leg to cancer when he was 29, went on to claim a bronze at the APG on home soil.

The sport made its debut at the 2002 Manchester Games. He is the first Singaporean para-powerlifter to feature at the quadrennial Commonwealth Games.

"I was shocked to have my family here to support me," he said. "My wife and daughter came from Singapore and my son (Sanjay) flew from London.

"I have to keep improving my best. Tokyo 2020 is a dream and my ambition. Every time I press more, gets me closer to that. So it's back to training next week."