Smith a 'better athlete' after GB Weightlifting funding cut

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter
Smith stuns Wasps rugby players with her lifting ability

Commonwealth bronze medallist Zoe Smithexternal-link has admitted British Weightlifting were right to remove her personal Olympic funding last Christmas.

The Londoner was branded overweight and faced criticism over her commitment to training, but has made significant progress since joining the GB programme in Leeds full-time earlier this year.

"While I did think it was tough on me at the time I do think they had their reasons and they were quite good reasons to be fair," Smith told BBC Sport.

"It's made me change for the better and I think I'm probably going to come out a better athlete and more professional for it."

The 17-year-old has endured an emotional year, which in addition to leaving her home in London, saw Smith quit college, win a Youth World Championship silver medal and endure five months of injury problems.

However, at her first senior World Championships in Paris last month she broke 15 British records en route to attaining the Olympic 'B' qualification standard for the 2012 Games.

"It's been a bit of a mixed year," said the -63kg lifter.

"But with it [London 2012] approaching I really need to knuckle down now, because it's literally getting crucial and I don't have any time to lose."

Smith will be in the spotlight this weekend at the Olympic test event at London's ExCel Centre, but with only four weight divisions on show she will lift in the unfamiliar -68kg division, and therefore will be using the competition for experience in the 2012 venue.

Scotland's Commonwealth silver medallist Peter Kirkbride does, however, have the opportunity to gain an Olympic qualifying lift.

The 24-year-old missed the World Championships due to an ankle injury, which has since healed, and he will compete in his preferred -94kg division this weekend.

Kirkbride admits he is only about 70% fit but is looking forward to returning to competition.

"I'm not focusing on my total, I haven't had the time to do all the conditioning work I would have liked," Kirkbride told BBC Sport.

"I've got back quite quickly but the foundation isn't there, it will be mainly core strength that gets me through."

Kirkbrideexternal-link added: "It's going to be a great experience to lift on that platform and to be part of the team as I haven't been to a Europeans or Worlds. I'm just going to the test event to do the best I can."

Kirkbride and Smith will be joined at the Olympic test event by British team-mates Natasha Perdue and Joe Muskett.

British Weightlitfers Zoe Smith, Hannah Powell and Gareth Evans take a break from competing to explore Disneyland Paris

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