World Champion Balinese Weightlifter Sets her Sights on Success at 2016 Rio Paralympics

(6 September 2016)  A world champion Balinese weightlifter who has had to overcome polio and adversity, is set to compete in the Rio Paralympics.

Ni Nengah Widiasih’s life started out in very harsh conditions, with her and her brother both suffering from polio since they were young and living in poor surroundings at their home in Karangasem, in East Bali.

As a disability is seen as a curse in Hindu culture, Widiasih and her brother Gede hid away in their house out of shame and initially did not attend school. Widiasih’s only way of moving around was on her hands and feet because the polio prevented her from walking correctly. Her brother also experienced many difficulties, having to use a bamboo stick as a crutch.

They lived like this for several years until Puspadi Bali (a disability support organisation providing prosthetics and wheelchairs to people with a disability in Bali and Eastern Indonesia) discovered her and her brother and immediately organised medical treatment for them.

As part of her treatment, Widiasih had to have a series of operations in Yogyakarta so she could stand upright. Puspadi Bali then provided her with leg braces so she had mobility and a wheelchair for her to use when her legs were tired.

“I’m so grateful to Puspadi Bali for helping to change my life and giving me braces for my leg so I could move around and do what I need to do,” she said.

The organisation then ensured both siblings went to school and completed their studies, so they could break out of a cycle of poverty and discrimination. Both Widiasih and Gede proved to be very bright and within five months had gone from kindergarten to Year 5.

During her time at school, Widiasih discovered her passion for weightlifting and her life continued to take incredible turns, including winning gold at the World Cup Powerlifting in Malaysia this year and also coming first in last year’s Singapore ASEAN Para Games.

Her dedication and success in the sport has now led her to her ultimate goal of competing in weightlifting in the Rio 2016 Paralympics.

“I feel very happy and also proud to go to the Paralympics because this is my big dream,” Widiasih said. “My advice to other people with a disability is to never give up because no one can do everything but everyone can do something.”

The 23-year-old has been focusing and training hard at Solo-Surakata in Yogyakarta and has now travelled with nine other Indonesian athletes to Rio, for the start of the Paralympics.

Widiasih can’t wait for the event to start and knows her family will be closely watching and cheering her on.

“My family and friends are all very proud of me and they always pray for me to win in Rio,” she said.

Widiasih has now headed to Rio and will compete in the weightlifting event on September 8th.

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Stephanie Fitzpatrick

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