Times reporter put through paces by Olympic weightlifting star

PUBLISHED: 17:29 22 November 2012

Zoe Smith and Bexley Times reporter Robin Cottle

Zoe Smith and Bexley Times reporter Robin Cottle


After a short while training with Abbey Wood’s Olympic weightlifting star Zoe Smith, it quickly became clear to me that you either have it or you haven’t. And I definitely do not.

Standing at a little over 5ft 2ins tall she is a lot stronger than she looks as she put me through my paces in the plush new Europa Centre in Crayford.

She certainly put me to shame as I found the simple act of lifting the 15kg bar with no weights a tall order.

Balance, flexibility and strong legs are certainly not my fortes.

“I find it very hard to coach people because this came naturally to me,” explains Zoe. “I started gymnastics when I was a kid and that gave me very strong legs and made me flexible.

“My coach does not recommend doing cardio because it takes away muscle mass so it’s all stretches, squats and lifts. It can be very repetitive, especially when you haven’t got a competition to look forward to.”

The 18-year-old’s rise to prominence came this summer in the Olympics where she was dubbed ‘‘Britain’s strongest schoolgirl’’.

She previously won bronze at the Commonwealth Games in the 58kg category, followed by a fourth place finish in the European Championships which meant she qualified for London 2012.

It was here that she was delighted to break a British record in the clean and jerk by lifting 121kg to finish 12th (alongside 90kg in the snatch). I just about managed to clean and jerk 25kg.

Zoe, who can lift more than twice her own body weight, said: “It is a little strange I suppose. Maybe I’m just a very large ant. I could probably lift you up but I would have to cut you in half and put you at either end of the bar.”

The former Townley Grammar School, Bexleyheath student says she would like to go back to finish her A-levels when her training has settled down. She deferred to concentrate on her weightlifting career.

“Lifting is the priority. But I would like to do something sports related, maybe physiotherapy or sports science and it’s important to think about my post-weightlifting career.”

Other lifting methods she shows me include power snatches, dead lifts and squats with varying degrees of success.

Zoe was getting back into the training groove after the post-Olympic break and admits she enjoyed herself a little too much after the end of her competition at the end of July.

“I ate too much chocolate and drank a little too much. It was great hanging around with all the other athletes who had finished competing and then I caught up with my ‘normal friends.’

“It was nice doing things I couldn’t do while I was training but I’ve found it very hard since I came back.”

Although weightlifting is not for me, Zoe definitely encourages it, especially for young girls as she tries to prove you can compete and be feminine at the same time.

“If girls want to have a go they should just come down here to the Europa Centre.

“It’s not an insult to be called feminine. I know I’m not your stereotypical weightlifter but while I don’t see myself as a role model, hopefully I can persuade teenage girls to try the sport.”

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