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Britain's strongest girl: The 14-year-old who can lift three times her own body weight

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She may only stand at just over five feet but this record-breaking teenager is the strongest girl in Britain.

Weightlifter Zoe Smith has been crowned Athlete of the Year in her sport by the British Olympic Association.

The 14-year-old was given the title, usually reserved for Olympic medallists, after taking gold at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune, India, in October.

Standing at 5ft 2in and weighing just under nine stone, Zoe lifted three times her own body weight, set an amazing 98 British records in 2008 and held every record, bar one, between the ages of 14 and seniors.

Now the teenager, from Abbey Wood, south east London, has set her sights on going all the way at the London Olympics in 2012.

Zoe, a former gymnast, first started weightlifting at the age of 12 after she was asked to make up the numbers in a weightlifting team for London Youth Games.

Too young to participate because the coaches didn't realise she was only 12, Zoe was taken under the wing of her trainer Andy Callard at the Europa Gymnastics Centre, where she continued her development, training eight hours a week spread over four sessions.

She said: 'From my first session, Andy, my weightlifting coach, said he could tell I had the natural talent and strength to do well at the sport.

'Funnily though, no one had realised I was two years too young to compete at the London Youth Games as I was only 12 I had to wait until this year to get my chance.'

Her list of achievements in the past two years would leave even Chris Hoy with green envy.

Just days after her 13th birthday in May 2007, Zoe set the first of her British records in her first national competition at the British Under 17s Championships when she broke the Under 18s records that had stood for 11 years.

She added: 'Since then I have continued to break my own records at every successive competition (11 in total).'

In July last year, Zoe continued to set the standards in her sport when she took silver at the European Youth Championships, becoming the only ever British lifter to take any medal at the championships.

Going on to break 98 British records in 2008, Zoe became the youngest ever holder of senior British weightlifting records and now holds every record (apart from the 53kg clean and jerk record) in the 53kg weight category from senior down to under 14 level.



'My heaviest lift in competition to date was 90kg in the clean and jerk which I set at the Brunel Team Cup in August.

'Every record I have broken has been satisfying but it probably has to be the senior records.'

In October Zoe travelled to Pune in India to participate in the Commonwealth Youth Games, where she was part of Team England.

In typical style the teenager came out of the championships a winner, setting new senior British records.

'Without a doubt going to the Commonwealth Youth Games was the most fun I've ever had,' she says.

'It wasn't just the winning, but the whole atmosphere of being a part of Team England and living in the Games Village. It was great getting to know athletes from other sports and to meet people from lots of other Commonwealth countries.'

Zoe's amazing achievements in India and throughout the year brought her the prestigious award of Athlete of the Year in her sport by the British Olympic Association.

She said: 'I'd never even heard of the award before let alone realised I'd been nominated so I most definitely wasn't expecting it. Seeing my name on a list as an equal alongside all the big names from this year's Olympics was unbelievable.

'At first I thought there might have been some mistake and was a bit nervous about telling anyone so I was amazingly happy when it sunk in that it was true.

'Although I'm actually still too young to compete at the Olympics - you have to be 16 for weightlifting - I was lucky enough to be taken to Beijing as part of the BOA's Britain's Olympic Ambition 2012 squad.'

Now she is already setting her sights on breaking more records in 2009.

'I'm not too sure yet which competitions I'll be taking part in this year but I hope to take part in most of the national competitions and to get some more international experience too.

'I'd love to improve on my silver medal at last year's European Youth Championships which are taking place in Eilat in Israel in September.'

Zoe, who was made a Sports Ambassador for Greenwich Council's Olympic Unit, has now set her sights on gaining an Olympic gold in her home city in 2012.

'Going to Beijing and actually watching a couple of Olympic weightlifting competitions and seeing the atmosphere and excitement of the home crowd cheering on their lifters has made me more determined than ever to try to make it to the 2012 Games in my own city,' she said.

'Just being selected would be a dream come true and of course the ultimate aim for anyone would be to win the gold medal  me included.

'My coach has said that his wish for me is to make it to the A Group final because once you are there anything is possible.

'It all just feels so exciting wondering what the next three years will bring and I'm feeling really positive and looking forward to it all.'

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