Commonwealth Games 2014: Zoe Smith beats pressure to seize weightlifting gold
After struggling with her weight the Londoner restored her energy by bingeing on chocolate
Sunday 27 July 2014
Zoe Smith celebrated her Commonwealth Games weightlifting gold medal with a back-flip before revealing how her dramatic victory in the women's 58kg division had been fuelled by a last-minute chocolate binge.
The 20-year-old Londoner lifted 118kg with her third and final lift in the clean and jerk to set a Commonwealth Games record total of 210kg, which was enough to see off the challenge from Nigeria's Ndidi Winifred. Michaela Breeze, the Welsh veteran, took the bronze.
Smith's excited celebrations signalled a release of the pressures of expectation which have been building up since she marked her major Games debut in Delhi four years ago by winning a bronze medal at the age of only 16.
But Smith's path to gold was anything but plain sailing after she was left battling desperately to make the weight for competition after arriving in the Athletes' Village earlier in the week.
Smith said: "I had a bit of a scare a couple of days ago because I still had a good two and a half kilos to come down, so I cut out the carbs and I didn't drink for the majority of yesterday.
"I was suffering a little bit so post-weight [weigh in] that first bite of chocolate was the best thing I've ever tasted. There was chocolate everywhere – I'm surprised I managed to waddle out on to the platform, my belly was so big."
Smith's late panic in some ways sum up her progress towards the top of the senior ranks, having temporarily had her funding withdrawn by her own governing body after her Delhi success and struggling after London 2012 with a back injury.
"This has been a long time coming – I've had a thousand conversations and thoughts about the Commonwealth Games and now I'm glad the gold is hanging round my neck," Smith said. "I knew I was able to do it but getting it on the day was another thing and having it over my head and getting the sound signal was the biggest wave of relief I've ever felt."
Breeze, the former two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist, looked likely to present the biggest threat to Smith after reversing her decision to retire so that she could give it one last shot at the age of 35.
Breeze led after the snatch portion of the competition with a Games record lift of 93kg, one better than Smith with Winifred third on 90kg after failing on a clean-looking attempt at 95kg only via a majority judges' decision.
Breeze came in early in Smith's favoured clean-and-jerk part of the event, lifting 108kg and following up with 109kg – a lift she described as "a complete balls-up" having run out of time to make a heavier entry.
Forced to increase to 113kg for her final lift to stand any chance of overhauling Smith, Breeze missed out, leaving Smith to go clear at 115kg and 118kg to complete her victory.
Breeze was satisfied with her performance, saying: "My sole intention when I started playing around again last year was to try and motivate and push my athletes to qualify themselves. There were times I looked back and thought 'I can't do it again – I'm 35 now' and Zoe wasn't even born when I started."
Smith is convinced she can use her gold medal as a platform as she looks ahead to the Olympics in 2016. "I want to be a contender in Rio – I want to be in the running," Smith said. "I need to give it more work yet because a 210 total isn't going to win me a medal there but I think I've got what it takes to keep going.
"I've been through an emotional rollercoaster and it amazes me when people call me an inspiration. To me I'm still just the 12 year old girl who walked into a gym eight years ago because she wasn't very good at gymnastics."
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