June 13, 2023
SINGAPORE – With seemingly minimal fuss, Singapore powerlifter Farhanna Farid regained her women’s Under-52kg deadlift world record with a 203kg gold-medal effort at the World Open Classic Powerlifting Championships in St Julian’s, Malta on Sunday.
But unknown to many, the 30-year-old was competing while nursing a “gnarly” back injury for the past two months.
She said: “I could not walk or lift my leg to put on pants or even sneeze without pain. Competing felt impossible but I knew I had to make good use of whatever time I had, to make this meet possible in order to reclaim my world record.
“During the competition, my body was exhausted but my mind was fixed on one objective only – take the world record back… and my body held up just enough for my last attempt.
“The expectations on me felt enormous but I relished in the pressure. If folks out there believe in me so much, I have no business doubting myself. This meet showed me I am capable of things beyond my physical capacity and that I can will myself into achieving anything. The body is strong but the mind is infinitely powerful.”
It was Farhanna’s sixth world record in the discipline in just one year – her first was at the World Open Classic Powerlifting Championships in Sun City, South Africa, in June 2022. Then, she lifted 197kg and 200.5kg to break the world record twice.
She rewrote that mark with a 201kg effort at the South-east Asian Cup in Johor Bahru in September. Three months later, she was at it again, with lifts of 201.5kg and 202kg at the Asian Classic Powerlifting Championships in Dubai.
In March, New Zealand’s Evie Corrigan snatched the deadlift world record from Farhanna with a 202.5kg effort at the Sheffield Powerlifting Championships, en route to a combined total world record of 460kg.
Powerlifting comprises three disciplines.
In the squat, the athlete places the bar behind the shoulders, lowers into a squat and returns to an upright position.
In the bench press, he or she lies on a bench and pushes the bar up.
For the deadlift, the athlete has one minute to start the lift by pulling the barbell in a single upward bar movement until his or her shoulders, hips and knees are fully locked. Once that position is assumed by the lifter, the central referee will give the “down” command. The lift is completed when the bar is lowered to the ground without dropping it.
The best of three attempts in each event is tallied and the lifter with the highest total score is crowned the overall winner.
On Sunday, Corrigan, 27, was clearly the best powerlifter after placing third in the squat (162.5kg) and first in the bench press (100kg).
After effortlessly nailing 197.5kg on her second deadlift effort to match her combined world record of 460kg, the Kiwi had an unassailable lead overall and elected to abandon her final attempt of 203kg.
This paved the way for Farhanna to reclaim the deadlift world record after matching Corrigan’s 190kg and 197.5kg lifts.
With her customary sumo deadlift stance, she planted her feet close to the weights, braced herself and comfortably completed her lift with a grin which broke into a toothy, megawatt smile. Then she clasped her hands, bowed and fist-bumped the judges before hugging her husband James Barcelo.
With a total of 400.5 kg (127.5kg squat and 70kg bench press), three-time Asian champion Farhanna finished eighth out of 24 competitors, who included 76-year-old Susan Elwyn from the US Virgin Islands.
Although the total was 6.5kg below her personal best, Farhanna felt this was the most satisfying meet she has had due to the circumstances.
Barcelo, who was also her handler, said: “I’ve always believed in her but seeing her condition just four weeks ago would test anyone’s faith. Even during the competition itself, her back was threatening to quit. But she understood what we came here for so she was ready to push through anything and leave it all on the platform.
“We were even semi-joking that I had to be ready to princess-carry her off the platform.”
Singapore coach Ng Jun Jie, who is working with nine athletes at the June 11-18 meet, added: “She stayed focused despite the highly stressful periods when she was neck and neck with her closest competitor.
“She knew what she needed to do to break the world record and stuck to her plan with absolute discipline.”