Zoe Newson takes gold in para powerlifting as late Nigerian duo are disqualified

Nigeria’s perfect para powerlifting Commonwealth Games record was ended when two of their athletes were disqualified for turning up late for an event won by England’s Zoe Newson.

Tokyo Paralympic champion Latifat Tijani and Onyinyechi Mark were among the favourites to win women’s lightweight gold at Birmingham 2022.

The pair were disqualified after arriving 25 minutes late for the appointed kit check time, although the Nigeria Commonwealth Games Federation protested against the decision in saying they were unaware of the time agreed at a technical meeting in August.

A Birmingham 2022 statement read: “Two athletes from the Nigeria team were disqualified due to non compliance to Technical Rules 17.1.4 ‘athletes does not present out to the kit check in the scheduled time and/or with a form of identification, they will be disqualified (DSQ)’.

“The two athletes were present at 2.10pm, 25 minutes late from the scheduled kit check time 1.45pm.”

Nigeria press attache Oluwatoyin Ibitoye said Tijani and Mark had arrived at the NEC venue at 1.55pm – 65 minutes ahead of the scheduled 3pm start time and five minutes before what they felt was the cut-off point.

Ibitoye said: “The Federation has appealed because we feel the athletes came in on time.

“We haven’t seen any messages that we should be here at 1.45pm and on that basis we are making a protest.

“The contest has been won and lost, but it’s important for us to put things on record so next time there has to be better information.

“These sort of issues should be discussed at the technical meeting where everybody is present.”

Told that Nigeria staff were indeed present at the technical meeting on August 1 when check-in timings were agreed, Ibitoye replied: “The officials who went there say they were not told about 1.45.

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games – Day Seven
Zoe Newson (right) celebrates her para powerlifting gold medal with silver medallist and England teammate Olivia Broome (right) at the 2022 Commonwealth Games (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“You have to trust your own people when they tell you this, and this is not the first time. If they are not getting it right there must be disconnect somewhere.

“We will learn from this and maybe the next athletes will be here an hour or two before the event.

“The opportunity has gone for these athletes and, of course, there were tears because of the hours of preparation and training and then this (happens) on technical grounds.”

Newson and English team-mate Olivia Broome took advantage of the Nigerians’ absence to fill the top two podium spots, with Kenya’s Hellen Kariuki taking bronze.

Nigeria had enjoyed gold medal para powerlifting clean sweeps at Glasgow 2014 and Gold Coast 2018 after the sport was categorised separately from weightlifting.

“I think I found out they had been disqualified about half an hour before the start,” said Newson, 30, who won Commonwealth bronze on the Gold Coast four years ago.

“I kept out of it. I just stayed focused on myself and took no notice of what was happening around me.”

England’s Mark Swan finished second in the men’s lightweight final behind Malaysian Bonnie Bunyau, who set a new Games record score of 154.6 points, with Nigeria’s Innocent Nnamdi third.