SMITH Zoe < Back  
Sport Weightlifting
CGA England   
Gender Women
Born 26 Apr 1994 in London, ENG
Height1.59 m
Human Interest
Further Personal Information
Occupation Athlete
Languages English
Sport Specific Information
When and where did you begin this sport? She took up the sport at age 12 at the Europa Weightlifting Club in Erith, England.
Why this sport? She was encouraged to try weightlifting by British Olympic gymnast Yvonne Arnold, who co-owns the Europa Weightlifting Club in Erith, England. "I was training as a gymnast and was asked to participate in the weightlifting club situated downstairs from the gymnastics centre. This was because they needed a female lifter to allow them to enter a team in the London Youth Games for the borough of Greenwich. It turned out I was actually too young to compete in the Games that year but I decided there and then that I wanted to pursue weightlifting further."
Training Regime Throughout the COVID-19 lockdown she trained in a gym she set up in her garage.
General Interest
Memorable sporting achievement Winning silver at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, QLD, Australia, despite carrying a back injury into the event. (dailymail.co.uk, 07 Apr 2018)
Most influential person in career Coach Andrew Callard. (britishweightlifting.org, 29 Oct 2014)
Hero / Idol British weightlifter Michaela Breeze. (calacus.com, 25 Aug 2020)
Injuries She was suffering from a back injury in the lead-up to the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, QLD, Australia, and required an epidural in order to compete at the event. Despite the injury she still won a silver medal in the 63kg category. (bbc.co.uk, 07 Apr 2018)

In June 2016 a serious right shoulder injury [partial dislocation, torn ligaments] that required surgery ruled her out of the 2016 British Championships in Coventry and eventually ruled her out of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. (bbc.co.uk, 07 Apr 2018; 11 Jun 2016)

In April 2016 a knee problem and a slight back injury affected her performance at the 2016 European Championships in Forde, Norway. (bbc.co.uk, 13 Apr 2016)

A virus forced her to withdraw from the 2014 World Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan. (bbc.co.uk, 11 Nov 2014)

She returned to competition in February 2014 after almost a year out with a back injury. (keighleynews.co.uk, 27 Feb 2014; bbc.co.uk, 25 Sep 2013)

A back injury forced her to miss the 2011 European Youth Championships in Ciechanow, Poland. (bbc.co.uk, 04 Aug 2011)

She suffered a shoulder injury when winning a silver medal at the 2011 World Youth Championships in Lima, Peru. (bbc.co.uk, 04 Aug 2011)
Sporting philosophy / motto "Something that has always resonated with me is what my coach told me at my first competition. I asked him to wish me luck, to which he replied, 'You don't need luck, just the opportunity'." (dwfitnessfirst.com, 12 Sep 2018)
Awards and honours She was named the 2008 British Olympic Association [BOA] Athlete of the Year for weightlifting. (guardian.co.uk, 15 Feb 2011)
Milestones In 2014 she became the first female weightlifter representing England to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games when she was victorious in the 58kg category in Glasgow, Scotland. Four years earlier she had become England's first female Commonwealth Games medallist in weightlifting when she claimed bronze in the same event in Delhi, India. (SportsDeskOnline, 06 Sep 2019; weareengland.org, 28 Aug 2015; bbc.co.uk, 06 Oct 2010)
Ambitions To compete at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, and the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England. (eurosport.co.uk, 10 May 2021; dailymail.co.uk, 07 Apr 2018)
Other information RETURN FROM INJURY
She won an unexpected silver medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, QLD, Australia, after coming back from a serious shoulder injury she suffered in 2016. "I had an epidural while I was in the prep camp. Since then there have been multiple trips to the doctors, multiple painkillers, anti-inflammatories, but even after all that, it was still awful. I could not lift the empty bar at the beginning of the week [of competition in Gold Coast]. Even on the bus here [to the competition venue in Gold Coast] I was thinking to myself I'm going to go and say hello to everyone and have a wave on the platform but I probably won't be putting any weight on the bar. So I'm actually shocked [to have won a medal]. I'm really quite proud of this medal. It just shows I can do it when I need to. I'm made of tough stuff, I guess." (theguardian.com, 07 Apr 2018; telegraph.co.uk, 07 Apr 2018)

FUNDING CUTS AND RETURN TO STUDIES
She has struggled for financial support throughout her career, and in 2013 she considered quitting the sport due to a combination of injury and GB Weightlifting losing its UK Sport funding. She coached other athletes and worked in a cafe to earn money in the periods when she did not receive funding, and in 2018 she returned to college in Loughborough to complete her A-Levels and was also working part-time as a waitress. "I know it's a first-world problem, but I'd never had to work before and getting up at 05:00 every day to make my way over to a coffee shop where I'd be serving for most of the day before trying to train was incredibly tough. People would recognise me when I was making them a coffee and they'd say, 'Aren't you Zoe Smith, the weightlifter?' and it reminded me where I'd been and where I now was. I just woke up one morning and decided, 'Actually I don't have to do this, I can make changes' and I had to do what was best for Zoe the athlete and choose happiness. It was a real conscious effort to make a change, break the cycle, find a way out and it's really paid off because I'm much happier now." (bbc.co.uk, 17 Sep 2019, 12 Jul 2017, 22 Feb 2011; independent.co.uk, 24 Aug 2018; telegraph.co.uk, 07 Apr 2018)

CATEGORY CHANGE
In 2019 she moved down to the 59kg category from 64kg to boost GB Weightlifting's prospects of qualifying two women for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, with Sarah Davies competing in the heavier division. Smith missed out on the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro with a shoulder injury. "After the lows of missing out on Rio, Tokyo is a proper comeback mission. I know I'm not quite there yet, but I've learnt so much from the last four years; I'm loving the challenge and I'm grafting for maybe the first time in my life." (bbc.co.uk, 17 Sep 2019)