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At 16, Zoe’s already a heavyweight

Zoe Smith’s penchant for punching above her weight was evident even before she learnt to utter a word. Just 12 months old, Zoe would climb her parent's doorframes with her hands and feet wrapped around them.

other Updated: Oct 01, 2010 00:09 IST
Abhijeet Kulkarni

Zoe Smith’s penchant for punching above her weight was evident even before she learnt to utter a word. Just 12 months old, Zoe would climb her parent's doorframes with her hands and feet wrapped around them.

Those manoeuvres prompted her mother, Niki, to enroll Zoe to a gymnastic training school. However, destiny had something else for her.

After pursuing gymnastic for six years, the 5 feet 2 inches tall girl landed on a lifting mat just to make up the numbers for her gymnasium in a London tournament four years ago and hasn't looked back ever since. She became the youngest female lifter to win a Commonwealth Youth Games gold in Pune as a 14-year-old, and two years later can create history here by becoming the first English lifter to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games.

“I definitely hope to (win a gold here),” said Smith, who will compete in the 58kg weight category and will have to overcome more experienced competitors from India and Australia. “Yes, the competition is higher. But I definitely want to better my past performance and let's see how it goes.”

Zoe has been doing just that back home. She has broken every British record — junior and senior — in the last four years and was named the Olympic Athlete of the Year in December 2008.

She currently holds the senior records for snatch, clean and jerk and combined total in 58 and 63kg categoties.

However, CWG 2010 will be Zoe's first senior international tournament and she is already feeling the pressure.

“It's great to be back in India but it will be different from 2008. I am already feeling the pressure of expectation here,” said the 16-year-old, who sports an angular hairstyle and boasts of a well-toned body honed by six years of gymnastics training.

Ask her whether it was difficult to shift from gymnastic to weightlifting, Zoe says, “I was not good at gymnastics.”

But she was very impressive in her very first lifting competition, and 1994 Commonwealth Games gold-medallist, Andy Callard, was quick to realise her potential and started training her.

Despite being the youngest in the 12-member lifting squad, Zoe is not only England's biggest hope here but the youngster is also touted as the host's medal hope in the 2012 London Olympics.

“Yes, I am already being told that. But I am also excited since it will be great to win a medal in front of my home crowd,” she added.

But right now, Zoe is enjoying being back in India and a podium finish will be icing on the cake.