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Queen meets weightlifting teen with 2016 ambitions

PUBLISHED: 10:02 05 November 2009 | UPDATED: 17:19 25 August 2010

A 15-YEAR-OLD girl who could lift a prop-forward rugby player above her head was awestruck after shaking hands with the Queen.

A 15-YEAR-OLD girl who could lift a prop-forward rugby player above her head was awestruck after shaking hands with the Queen.

Weightlifting British record breaker Zoe Smith, from Abbey Wood, met the Queen on Tuesday whilst at the 2012 Olympic Park in Stratford to check on

construction progress and meet with top athletes.

Ms Smith, who trains at Erith's Europa Gym and is gunning for a medal at the 2012 Games, said the name of the VIP at the event was kept a secret until the last minute.

Writing on her 2012 team blog, she said: "When somebody told me that it was going to be the Queen I was absolutely shocked.

"What a once in a lifetime chance! When she arrived, everyone in the room suddenly fell silent and you could actually feel the suspense.

"I could tell it was going to be an experience I wouldn't be forgetting any time soon. I actually got to shake her hand, which was shown on BBC News."

The Townley Grammar School pupil is among 16 rising stars in the country to receive financial backing from SportsAid to make their mark at the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio.

Mum Nikki Smith, 48, said Zoe first started showing signs of unusual strength as a toddler at their flat in Woolwich by climbing up door frames and hanging off the top.

Mrs Smith said: "She got into weightlifting by chance. As a gymnast she had always had muscle tone in her arms.

"Then she started training at Europa gym and within weeks was told that she wouldn't make it to the Olympics as a gymnast but might as a weightlifter.

"When your child has done a sport for years it's hard to see them give it up. But the first time I saw her compete in weightlifting I realised that was her future."

From day one her coach Andy Callard, a Commonwealth medalist, was impressed by her potential and could see her competing with the world's best.

Mrs Smith revealed her daughter broke her own personal bests in training earlier this week - 77kg for snatch and 96kg for clean and jerk - and is due to fly out to Sweden this weekend to take on senior weightlifters.

The 15-year-old has found new energy after a disastrous performance at the European Youth Champs in Israel in September, where she toppled into the judges along with the load she was lifting.

martin.sawden@archant.co.uk

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