English Weightlifter Zoe Smith last year became the first Englishwoman to win a Commonwealth Games medal for weightlifting.
The Commonwealth champion and British record holder has also competed at the Olympic Games and has a European bronze medal to her name.
Ahead of England’s young athletes heading to Samoa for the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games this September, 21 year old Smith recalls how fundamental the Youth Games in 2008 were for her and explains how her development with Team England was vital:
“I won Gold in 2008 and it was great to get a big international win – obviously it was at youth level but I loved every minute of it. The Commonwealth Youth Games is something I look back on fondly; it was fantastically run, we had a great team and I would have loved to relive it.
“It was massively important for my development. I was fortunate enough to represent England as a senior last year when I won gold in Glasgow so I think it did help me to prepare for an international competition. Having that experience as a youth athlete is massively important.”
This year, England’s young athletes are travelling to Samoa for the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games and Zoe offers her advice to the team.
“The most important thing is to enjoy the experience and soak it all up. In a few years, many of them will be going on to compete, not only at the Commonwealth Games but also at the World Championships, European Games and the Olympic Games. Everyone will be really excited to be away at a major championship with other sports but my advice would be to not get too carried away before the competition.”
One of Team England’s young athletes heading to Samoa is Rebekah Tiler, who has also experienced the senior Games, having competed in Glasgow last year.
Having competed at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the 16 year old is widely regarded as one of England’s most exciting young talents and is currently the Women’s British record holder for the clean and jerk, having lifted 125kg. She narrowly missed out on a medal in Glasgow last year when she finished fourth, but will be able to use her experience to lead Team England’s young athletes in Samoa.
The English weightlifter from West Yorkshire was also voted by Team England’s designated sport Team Leaders to carry England’s flag into the Opening Ceremony on 5 September in Samoa’s capital city of Apia.
Zoe, who competed with her in Glasgow said: “Rebekah’s a big name in our sport at the moment and I think everyone is expecting her to medal. I wish her the best and I have no doubt that she will perform excellently.
“It is a lot of expectation and pressure on someone so young but from what I have seen she has a good head on her shoulders and has been to the senior Games so has experience under her belt now which I think will help her a lot.”
Rebekah said: “Next month’s competition will be tough but my preparation has been going well and I’m happy with how I’ve been lifting in training and competition. Now I can’t wait to get out there and lead Team England out for the Opening Ceremony.”
In 2014 Zoe became the first Englishwoman to win a Commonwealth Games weightlifting medal – an achievement she will always remember fondly.
“It took a while to sink in actually and it was an exciting time for me as it was my first major international medal at a senior level. It then put me in the spotlight for a bit, but was one of my most memorable experiences to date.
“There aren’t words to sum up the Games last year in Glasgow; it was easily the best experience of my life alongside competing at the Olympic Games. I loved every minute of it, especially winning the medal. The facilities were excellent, Glasgow is a beautiful city and it was a fantastic atmosphere inside and outside of the village.”
And Zoe is turning her attention to 2018, when the Commonwealth Games heads to Australia’s Gold Coast.
“I would love to go to the Gold Coast in 2018 and it’s definitely one of my goals. Maintaining my title is very important to me whether that be 58kg or if I go up a weight category, I want to go there and win, so that is my aim. I am really looking forward to it.”