Lebanese weightlifter Mahassen Hala Fattouh Paiva has made history and given one of the most stellar performances of her career during her Olympic debut. The South Carolina resident became the first female weightlifter to represent Lebanon and competed in the 76 kg on Sunday in the Tokyo Olympics, turning in a personal best in the clean and jerk portion of the event, and finishing third in Group B and ninth overall with a total of 221 kg. Her ninth-place finish is the best by any Lebanon weightlifter since 1972.
“There are no words to describe how thankful I am. I didn’t do this alone and it’s been a very difficult 17-year journey,” Fattouh Paiva wrote on her Instagram page, adding, ”I couldn’t have done this without my coaches, family, friends, weightlifting community, and the support from Lebanese all over the world. I’m looking forward to being in Beirut tomorrow to be with my family. Thank you everyone for helping me achieve this dream.”
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In the snatch portion of the event, Fattouh Paiva was successful on her first two lifts of 88 kg and 93 kg. She tried 97 kg, two more kilograms more than her personal best of 95 kg, on her final lift, but was unable to complete it. Ranked first in Asia, the 31-year-old was successful on all three of her lifts in the clear and jerk portion of the event including a personal best 124 kg on her final attempt. With a total score of 217, Hala finished in third in Group B, just 1 kg off second place Kristel Ngarlem from Canada and 5 kg behind winner Emily Godley from Britain.
Meanwhile, Nelsi Patricia Dajomes Barrera claimed gold in the 76 kg event, as the Ecuadorian star posted an incredible 263 kg. American Katherine Elizabeth Nye earned the silver with a mark of 249 kg, and Mexico’s Aremi Fuentes Zavala took bronze at 245 kg.
Getting to this point has been years in the making for Fattouh Paiva. She started weightlifting in 2004 and began the process of competing for Lebanon in international competitions since 2012. The athlete hopes her Olympic exposure can help establish a strong female weightlifting program there and embrace her role as a trailblazer.