On Thursday, Australia’s Jessica Gray arrived in Mexico City ahead of the 2015 IPC Powerlifting Open Americas Championships, which officially got underway yesterday. Gray is not scheduled to compete until tomorrow at 11:30 AM local time / 2:00 AM Melbourne, Australia time when she competes in the women’s -67 kg event. She will be going up against Brazil’s Terezinha Santos and Chile’s María Ortiz. The world record in the event was set last year in South Korea by China’s Yujiao Tan with a lift of 137 kgs.
Gray had some difficulty getting an airplane to Mexico, as her originally scheduled flight with United was canceled and she was originally told it would take three days to get her on a new flight. After some persuasion, the airline was convinced to put her on a Qantas flight leaving the next day with a connection via Los Angeles. Because of the lack of time between connecting flights, she missed her connection but was able to get a flight that departed a few hours later.
Upon arriving at the hotel in Mexico City, she found that the training room was not set up and was not for her first two days there. This caused some problems with pre-competition training with an unexpected rest day.
Gray went to Mexico with a new, green wheelchair. It is the first wheelchair she has owned, as she had previously just rented one when she needed to when her multiple sclerosis flared as buying one was too expensive. The chair was provided by Sunrise Medical, whom Gray became an ambassador for in late March, and MS Australia and Inner East Community Health.
Cost is an issue for Gray as powerlifting is not a sport that is part of the Australian Targeting the Podium campaign. This limits the amount of government funding Gray can receive. She is required to self fund her efforts to qualify for Rio. Outside of support from friends and family and some sponsorship from Dineamic, Loaded Lifting, Next Generation Supplements, Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre and MSAC Institute of Training, Gray has a Go Fund Me campaign.
For many lifters, the competition is part of their 2016 Summer Paralympics qualifying campaign. Lifters need to have competed at last year’s world championships, meet the Paralympic Games Minimum Qualifying Standard (MQS) and and participate in at least one Regional/International approved event in 2015. This competition counts for the last criteria, and lifters can use the event to set an MQS.
Competition officially got underway yesterday and continues in Mexico City until Wednesday. Today, men’s 59 kg, 65 kg and 72kg are on the program, along with women’s 55kg and 61 kg.