Farshid Soltani of Asian Powerlifting Federation (left) and Mohammad Al Merri of Emirates Powerlifting Committee announce the Asian Bench Press Championships. Image Credit: Alaric Gomes /Gulf News

Dubai: Organisers are expecting at least 600 of the continent’s best powerlifters at the 11th Asian Bench Press Championships to be held at the Dubai Club for People of Determination from September 18 to 24.

Officials from the Asian Powerlifting Federation (APF) and Emirates Powerlifting Committee (EPC) met late on Saturday to disclose details of the competition to be held later this summer.

“At the end of the preliminary nominations deadline [of July 20], we had confirmations from 23 member countries and that is a record in itself,” Farshid Soltani, APF president told Gulf News.

“We are here to fulfil a dual goal. While on the one hand we want to spread our sport to every country in Asia, on the other we want to also improve the standard of powerlifting,” he added.

“Asia is a fast-growing area for our sport that, in 2018, will carry on an unprecedented number of international events and in which IFBB, Bodybuilding and Fitness, are recognised by the Olympic Movement so that we can have our sport accepted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC),” he stressed.

Iran played host to the 2013 Asian Powerlifting Championships and Oman organised the 2015 Asian Bench Press Championships, making the UAE a third nation from West Asia to conduct a continental competition.

Held under the patronage of Shaikh Abdullah Bin Hamad Al Sharqi, President, EBC and Vice-President for Asia on the IFBB executive board, the week-long competition will be open for all age groups including sub-juniors, juniors, open and masters for men and women.

Soltani was joined by APF general secretary Rajesh Tiwari — also a reputed sports commentator from India — and Mohammad Al Merri, EPF general secretary during the inspection of the venue. “We possibly have the best international venue in the Dubai Club for People of Determination. And with the official hotel [Al Bustan Centre] walking distance from the venue we could not have asked for anything better,” Tiwari noted.

Tiwari further stressed that there would be zero tolerance on doping. “The anti-doping programme is run directly by Wada [World Anti-Doping Agency] and it is always our aim to keep our sport clean,” he said.

As the hosts, the UAE is preparing to field a squad of at least 15 athletes with an eye on the medals in various weight categories. “Of course, there will be strong competition from athletes from the traditionally strong nations such as Iran, Japan and Kazakhstan,” Al Merri said.

“But we’ve had a headstart and our lifters have been going through an intense training programme. We are confident of a few medals,” he added.

The final deadline for accepting entries is August 28 and the official opening ceremony will be held at 10am on September 19.