Emily Godley makes sweet sacrifice to raise weightlifting’s profile

English champion and self-confessed chocoholic tells Matt Butler she fell into the sport almost by accident but has the dedication to shine in this week’s world championships

Don’t talk to Emily Godley about making sacrifices. The self-confessed “massive chocoholic” has made a pact with herself to swear off her  favourite treat until tonight, at the earliest. In fact, the only bar she is concerned with at the moment is the one between the two weights waiting on the platform at the world championships in Wroclaw, Poland.

After those weights are lifted, Godley confesses she may have a bar “or 10” – Lindt milk is her favourite – but until then, she is living by her mantra of suffering now and reaping the rewards later. “You have to sacrifice a few things if you want to get where you want to be,” she said. “It is tough. A typical day leading up to the world championships is pretty much: get up, work, gym, come home, bed. It is hard, mentally and physically.”

Godley is heading to the world championships with no pipedreams of winning gold – despite there being no medallists from last year’s Olympic Games in her 63kg category, there are formidable rivals in last year’s Asian champion, Deng Mengrong of China, and the 58kg world champion Nastassia Novikava of Belarus – but is regarding it as a crucial stepping stone on the way to next year’s Commonwealth Games and Rio 2016.

Getting this far has been through  remarkable perseverance. Her first competition of note was at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and a bout of illness prevented her from making a successful lift. The south Londoner was then overlooked – unfairly, according to some observers – for London 2012. But in February this year she lifted 190kg to be crowned English champion, which set her on the road to qualification for the worlds. “This will be my first major championship,” added Godley. “It is a great opportunity to compete against the best in the world. It will be important for the experience and to see what it is like at a world championship.”

And on the pressure she may feel in an arena full of weightlifting fans – the tension at a major championship makes for a fantastic spectacle, even though some lifters appear among the loneliest sports people on the planet as they walk up to the podium – she said: “You have to remember that you have trained for this and that it is just you and the bar. But you can’t over-think things too much when you are on the platform. Everyone deals with it in different ways; I just try to remember that I can do it and focus on that – and that is all.”

Godley, who will be joined by Natasha Perdue and Jack Oliver in a three-person Great Britain team in Poland, claimed her dogged determination is in part inspired by the middle-distance runner, Dame Kelly Holmes, who crowned an injury-plagued career with a gold medal double at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Godley said: “I read her autobiography and I admired her perseverance; the way she had injuries for so many competitions and then finally won the two gold medals. I would like to think I have a bit of perseverance in me as well.”

Godley, who fits her training around a full-time job at the Financial Ombudsman Service, did not start out wanting to be a weightlifter. She was once a junior-level pole-vaulter and, when told she should switch sports, having lifted weights as part of her strength and conditioning training for athletics, she confessed to being turned off by the stereotype of what a weightlifter should look like.

She agreed that many may think weightlifting is for massive men grunting and groaning in leotards, but is keen to stress the athleticism of the sport, especially in the smaller weight categories.

“I had never imagined myself as a weightlifter,” Godley said. “I had done a lot of other sports, like hockey, netball and tennis, but weightlifting isn’t exactly a ‘usual’ sport. But I tried it as part of my training for pole-vaulting and then I was told I would be good enough to go to the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. I laughed.

“But I am very glad to have changed sports. I have done it for five years now and in that time the perception of weightlifting has changed. We saw that after the London Olympics. Participation actually went up after the Games and people stopped coming back to the stereotypes of what a weightlifter supposedly looks like. It is great to break that perception.

“If we are successful, then hopefully more people will realise it is a worthwhile sport. I do it because I enjoy it, the buzz on the platform.” And, no doubt, for the reward of post-competition chocolate.

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