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Rodrigues wins gold at Special Olympics World Games

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    Special Olympics athletes Matt Anthony, left, and Delina Rodrigues celebrate their recent wins. Anthony won on the national level, while Rodrigues won on the world level. DANIELLE DERRICKSON/TIMES NEWS

Published March 25. 2019 12:04PM

With a last-second coach’s decision and a dramatic Hollywood movie kind of finish, Delina Rodrigues from Palmerton became the best power lifter in her weight class in the world.

Rodrigues won the gold medal in power lifting at the Special Olympics World Games held in Abu Dhabi earlier this month.

With a combined weight of 417 pounds in the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift, Rodrigues defeated Ruxue Jiang of China and Shabnam from Bharat to take the overall power lifting title.

Delina arrived with Team USA in Abu Dhabi on March 12.

Practicing and training for the power lifters were held the next two days before the World Games opening ceremonies on the evening of March 14.

In the power lifting competition that was held on the eve of March 15, there were five weight class divisions.

Rodrigues competed in the 159-pound class against lifters from China, Bharat, Syria and Tunisia, among others from countries around the world. Medals were awarded in each category and also for the overall combined weight lifted from all three events.

“In the squat, Delina appeared to be nervous,” said her mother, Christine. “There was music playing and hundreds of people watching. She lifted 127 pounds. I thought she could have done better. She came in fourth place.”

The next event for Rodrigues was worse.

In the bench press, Rodrigues received a red card on her second attempt.

While lying back on the bench, she bent her arms, bringing the weight closer to her chest when the spotter handed her the bar, resulting in a penalty and disqualifying second and third attempts. She had lifted 72 pounds on her first attempt, which was still good enough for third place in the event.

“I saw her get so upset about the red card and she started to cry,” said Christine. “The coach tried to console her, and he allowed me to go to Delina before her deadlift attempts to give her a hug. We calmed her down and got her to regroup.”

If Delina was to try to win gold, she would have to go for a personal best in the deadlift.

“Now I know that when my daughter gets determined and if you tell her that she can do something, she does it.”

Going into the deadlift event, Delina was in fourth place overall.

At the very last moment before she would lift, the decision was made to allow Delina to try for her personal best. She lifted 220 and a half pounds, a half-pound better than she had done before.

“We knew it would be very close with the girl from China, and we also knew Delina would get the silver medal at worst.”

The total weight lifted by her and the Chinese competitor was the exact same, but the winner was determined by a Wilks calculating formula that is used to measure the strength of a power lifter against other power lifters despite the different body weights they have.

Based upon her body weight, Delina was declared the winner by 0.3 kilograms.

In one brief shift of time, Christine, her son, Darris who accompanied her on the trip, and her daughter experienced the agony and then the ecstasy of international competition on the biggest stage in the world.

“Then when we got the results that Delina won the gold, I was so happy for her, I was shaking,” said Christine. “I couldn’t believe I could feel so bad for her one moment and then in a short while later, I’m seeing her get the gold medal put around her in the awards ceremony.”

Returning from Abu Dhabi on Friday, Delina was honored along with National Special Olympics unified bowling champions Chris and his son Matt Anthony, also from Palmerton, with a firetruck parade and special ceremony in the town park.

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