Weightlifting: Zoe Smith aims to clear burden of Twitter prejudice

 

She is another of those Britons in whom we should not let expectations race too far ahead.

Zoe Smith, whose Olympic moment arrives tomorrow in the ExCel arena’s 58kg weightlifting event, is an extraordinary athlete for sure, who has broken 350 records in her sport. But lurking in the way of the 18-year-old’s outside hopes of gold is Li Xueying, a wheat farmer’s daughter from her own country’s Henan province and one of a Chinese team whose preparations include hefting weights without knowing how big they are. In the Chinese training culture, the numbers are the coaches’ responsibility. The lifters don’t ask questions.

Yet Smith - whose journey to this moment has included the unedifying challenge of incurring Twitter abuse for the lack of femininity in her sport, as some see it – has the motivations. She won a bronze medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, aged 16, and standing just 5ft tall and weighing 9st 12lb, she lifts 150kg – more than 23 stone - at her best. She has also seen most things on her way to a position just beneath the world’s best. At one European Championships event, she heaved up the bar, found herself falling forward and “ran after it” – as she later described it – only to fall flat on her face, almost taking the judges out.

 British Weighlifting saw enough quality in her to move her to Leeds where they are based, to train full time, just four years after she burst onto the scene – transferring from gymnastics to weights when Team Greenwich needed a 12-year-old girl for the London Youth Games.

A traceable genetic link has drawn Smith towards her sport. Her mother, Niki, was a practitioner of Kempo Jiu-Jitsu, a discipline developed by the Japanese samurai. Smith jnr says that by succeeding at these Games she wants to demonstrate to a generation of young women that muscularity in women is perfectly fine. “We’re normal girls – just stronger than other people.”

A formidable field today also includes the Belarussian Anastassia Novikava, Thai Pimsiri Sirikaew and North Korean Jong Chun Mi, all of whom are in the elite A tier of lifters, who perform later in the day. Personal bests coming into the Games determine the rankings, though a place in the B-group does not affect Smith’s medal prospects. Smith flits between the 58kg and 63kg disciplines and the decision to enter her for 58kg – which forces her to ‘make weight’ today – was taken with her competitiveness at 58kg level for the 2016 Rio Olympics in mind. Smith, whose training weight is 61kg, still had 1kg to drop yesterday. “I’m eating grilled chicken and drinking bottles of water constantly!” she said.

Her Chinese rival has not been terribly effusive about these Games. “My responsibility is to my country,” she said recently. “I put my heart in weight lifting because I don’t want to disappoint my coaches and team leaders … I wouldn’t say I’m excited about London.” Where raw excitement is concerned, Smith certainly does have a head start.

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker