Weightlifting: 'I feel like such a div' says Team GB's Zoe Smith after setting new British record
They do make it a show at the weightlifting, with the countdown, the moody music, the competitors appearing through a dark side door and, in the case of the immeasurably engaging Zoe Smith, the participant’s mother being interviewed at half time.
This effort takes its effect, transporting the fundamental act of lifting an iron bar with weights attached into one of the most exhilarating pieces of sporting theatre at these Olympics, in which you wept at lunchtime today with Hidilyn Diaz, a Phillipina, and adored Christin Ulrich, a German who squealed and smiled her way to hauling weights beyond her experience. For Smith, an 18-year-old whose determination to take this unusual course in life, has seen her contend with unedifying lectures on what defines femininity, the ExCel theatricalities played a very unscripted part in her achieving a new British record.
It was while Smith was in the competitors’ area, coping with serious self-doubt after she had failed to push beyond her personal best in the snatch section of the women’s 58kg, that she heard the interview being conducted with her mother, Niki, booming out from front of house. “She will come back out. I feel so proud,” her mother said, at which her daughter dissolved into tears. "I feel like such a div because my coach says ‘never cry on TV’; never cry in a competition,” she reflected later. “But I did that, when I heard her, because I felt pretty rubbish at that point and I was hearing people say how proud they are of me. I felt I'd let them down. I thought 'I hope no-one can see this'. But I'm only human."
Smith’s nerves hadn’t quite finished with her. The 18-year-old’s desperation to lock on to the British record 121kg, which she heaved from the mat 15 minutes later, caused her to rush into a recovery position and drop it. “I was thinking “Oh Gosh this is so heavy” and it was going backwards. I just wanted to get it done and put it down,” said Smith, with her refreshing knack of demystifying a sport which is alien to many. It was then that her coach Andrew Callard, the one who doesn’t let her cry, and psychologist Dave Readle embarked on what seems to have been a good cop, bad cop routine, behind the scenes. "Dave tells me to calm myself down, do what you know best. And then Andy says 'come on', 'let's have it'. He says stuff I know to do anyway, but it does help having him there in my ear.”
The sport’s narrow lines were in evidence even as Smith discussed her new record. The Philippine coaching team threw a towel over Diaz’s head to prevent her weeping being broadcast around the world, when she had failed in three attempts at 118kg. She was still crying in the mixed zone 20 minutes later. Ulrich, the epitome of positive mental energy, was filmed being slapped around the face by her coach after surpassing expectations.
Smith, who finished 12th overall today in a competition won by Chinese favourite Li Xueying, has seen the sport from both sides too. She turned to Readle two years ago when she her “brain melted” at the Commonwealth Games and she literally couldn’t lift a weight, for a time. “Next time I want an Olympic record,” she said, displaying more of the spirit which promises to make this beautiful, effervescent individual a part of the national sporting landscape, if her progress can only continue. Smith also revealed how, after her first 121kg lift had failed, some rapid decisions had been required on whether she should attempt to beat the British record with her final lift – or smash it. “The plan was to go 116, 121, 125 but I had to work with what I had after failing at 121,” she said. “Andy said: ‘Do you want this again or 123? Part of me was thinking “Yeah. let’s put 123 on. But I wanted the record. I would have been so disappointed if I’d finished on 116 in the clean and jerk.”
This was nowhere near enough to clinch a medal - always the remotest possibility - but many will follow her progress, and perhaps her sport, from now. Her audience was sent off with the interview - in the arena, post-competition - in which Smith was asked about her mother. “Don’t make me cry!" she said, welling again. "She’s just a lovely, wonderful, supportive woman and I love her so much. Thank you mum!” Goodness knows how she will deal with a place on the podium some day.
Ashley Cole and Luke Shaw rise to the bait to deny they are the rumoured 'gay England footballer'
Former British tennis No 1 Elena Baltacha told she has liver cancer
West Bromwich Albion v Manchester United: Is Wayne Rooney really in Robin van Persie’s way at United?
Robin van Persie: Manchester United manager David Moyes a 'little bit surprised' after striker plays 90 minutes for Netherlands day after being sick
Chelsea v Tottenham: Tim Sherwood claims the pressure is off as Spurs look to end dreadful record at Stamford Bridge
- 1 International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 Orgasm machine to deliver climax at the push of a button
- 4 Too upsetting? Academy members voted for Oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave 'without watching it'
- 5 Liam Neeson turned down James Bond role because Natasha Richardson said she wouldn't marry him if he took it
Apple's Tim Cook: Business isn’t just about making profit
Thousands of young people forced to go without food after benefits wrongly stopped under 'draconian' new sanctions regime
Ukraine crisis: New navy chief 'defects' and surrenders Crimean HQ as Putin claims ultranationalists forced intervention
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Ukraine crisis: Russia dismisses '3am ultimatum' as 'total nonsense'
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast