'I get six minutes to prove myself' - Para-powerlifter Louise Sugden on her sporting switch

By Elizabeth HudsonBBC Sport
Louise Sugden at the Commonwealth Games
Sugden won heavyweight silver for England on the Gold Coast

After more than a year without competition, Para-powerlifter Louise Sugden is excited to get her Tokyo campaign back on track this week.

Sugden is among the Britons taking part in the World Cup event in Manchester as elite Para-sport continues its return after Covid.

"I'm looking forward to showing the world what I've been working on," she told BBC Sport.

"I've got big goals and there's only so much you can prove in training."

The 36-year-old is a relative newcomer to the sport having switched from wheelchair basketball, in which she represented GB at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics and at London 2012, and her rise has been rapid.

She won Commonwealth Games silver and European gold in 2018 and was seventh at the 2019 Worlds.

Now ranked fifth in the world in her -86kg category and with the top eight in late June guaranteed selection for Tokyo, she wants to consolidate her position this week and move closer to making the Games in her new sport.

Her best competition lift is 125kg - around one and a half times her body weight - but she knows she has more to give.

"I got a personal best in training before Christmas, which was one of the targets I was working towards, so I'm hoping I can get a new British record in Manchester," she says.

"But I'm just so excited to get the opportunity to go out and compete. It's been such a rollercoaster ride over the last three and a half years.

Louise Sugden playing wheelchair basketball
Sugden, who was paralysed in a car accident when she was 10 months old, started playing wheelchair basketball aged 13

"When I was playing basketball. I was always one of the stronger ones on the team and one of the top ones in strength testing. So I knew my body was naturally quite strong. I just didn't expect to take to powerlifting so well.

"Initially it was very difficult being out on the platform on my own having been so used to being part of a team.

"There's always a team of people around you in powerlifting, but it did hit me the first time I went out to compete.

"However, I like the fact that my results are purely based on what I do. I don't have to rely on anyone else and I don't have to feel guilty if I screw up, because I'm not affecting anyone else. I know that it's all on me.

"I get six minutes to prove myself in powerlifting rather than six or seven matches in wheelchair basketball."

Sugden competes on Sunday, while Rio Paralympic medallists Ali Jawad and Zoe Newson are among the Britons in action on Thursday's opening day of competition.

And with strict Covid procedures in place, she knows that powerlifting is fortunate to be able to have competitions while other Para-sports are still struggling to get back.

"It was difficult to stay motivated during lockdown without having something to work towards for so long. That was one of the hardest things for me," she says.

"I keep thinking this is an opportunity and I'm very lucky to be competing in my second sport and I try to remind myself of that kind of thing."

Louise Sugden was speaking to BBC Sport's Kate Grey

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