A blind lifter on the platform in Paris
Malek Chamoun (22) qualified to compete at the world championships in Paris next month. Chamoun was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of seven and by 15 was declared legally blind. The condition has continued to deteriorate over time and today he must use a cane to get around.
Yet with his father George, a former Australian weightlifting representative, as his coach and with mother Rita supporting on the home front, Malek took up weightlifting at age 12 and, after many frustrations and setbacks.
“To learn the lifts, other people do it by seeing it done, but I learned to do it all by feel. I use my other senses. Balance is an issue I seem to have worked out” – he explained.
He placed second, just 6kg in total, behind Commonwealth Games gold medallist Simplice Ribouem, in the 85kg bodyweight category at the recent nationals. Chamoun tallied 319kg with competition personal-best lifts of 140kg for the snatch and 179kg for the clean and jerk. Then the weightlifting training starts at home on the most inspirational stage imaginable: the actual Sydney Olympic weightlifting platform, which his father bought at auction.
“The weights are easier to see than the bar. But I know the bar is going to be in the middle of the platform. I walk forward up until my legs touch the bar. And I can feel markings on the bar so I can adjust my grip.” To the best of anyone in Australian weightlifting’s knowledge, Chamoun will be the first blind person to compete at the world championships.
(based on the story written by Mike Hurst, The Daily Telegraph)