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British weightlifters Zoe Smith and Rebekah Tiler sweated long and hard in their battle to claim the country’s one and only place in the women’s competitions at Rio 2016.
It was with that prize in mind that the two, who are aged 21 and 17 respectively, went head to head in the 63kg class at last November’s IWF World Championships in Houston (USA). Smith finished an excellent ninth overall after posting national records of 124kg in the clean-and-jerk and 221kg in total, while Tiler, who was taking part in her first major international competition, came in 13th after lifting 93kg in the snatch and 118kg in the clean-and-jerk for a total of 211kg.
Yet, having put herself in pole position for a place at Rio, Smith, who competed at London 2012 and won Commonwealth Games gold in Glasgow two years later, was ultimately forced to step aside by a persistent shoulder injury.
“I've been struggling with injury since the beginning of the year which has seriously hindered, and eventually ended, my road to Rio,” she said in June.
In the fast-improving Tiler, however, British women’s weightlifting will have a very able representative in Brazil. In April this year, the teenager won three bronze medals in the 69kg class at the European Championships in Førde (NOR), lifting 99kg in the snatch and 123kg in the clean-and-jerk for a combined total of 222kg.
Two months later she took the British title in her weight category, achieving 102kg in the snatch and 227kg overall, both of them new junior Commonwealth records.
One of the youngest members of the Great Britain team in Rio, Tiler will be lining up in the 69kg class, while her only weightlifting team-mate, Sonny Webster, will be competing in the men’s 94kg.
“I’m only 17 and this is my first Olympic Games. I’m so excited. I can’t wait,” said Tiler, looking ahead to her Rio adventure. “I’ve just been training so hard for this and now my dream has come true. I’m very proud. I just love my country and I like representing it.”
The teenager’s career objectives are to become nothing less than a world and Olympic champion and a legend to boot. For the time being, though, she is happy just to learn her trade: “My ultimate goal is the Olympics, but not this year. This is just going to be a good experience for me because I’m going to be competing against people I’ve never seen before, who are so much older than me… but by 2020, that’s where hopefully I’ll bring home some gold medals.”
The progress being made by Team GB’s female lifters is founded on the World Class Lifting programme set up by the national federation. It provides them with support in a number of areas, aiding their technical, physical and mental development through physiotherapy, sports medicine, nutrition, biomechanics and advice on the kind of lifestyle needed to achieve the highest performance levels.
In Smith and Tiler’s case, those performance levels are also being raised by the healthy competition between the two, with the up-and-coming teenage lifter keeping a close eye on her senior, who has already achieved a fair measure of international success, including that Commonwealth Games title. “I want to be like her,” said Tiler of her rival.