By Duncan Mackay
British Sports Internet Writer of the Year

Zoe Smith lifting(1)December 23 - Zoe Smith, the first English woman to win a weightlifting Commonwealth Games medal and considered one of the country's outstanding prospects for success at London 2012, has had her funding temporarily suspended after she was accused of being overweight.

The 16-year-old, who finished second to diver Tom Daley in the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year awards on Sunday (December 19), has had her funding of £500 ($771) per month withdrawn until at least the end of next month by the sport's governing body British Weight Lifting (BWL). 

She he will continue to have available support services such as physiotherapy and nutritional guidance, however.

The Londoner has broken more than 300 weightlifting records since switching from gymnastics four years ago and she claimed silver at the European Youth Championships in June.

In October Smith became the first English woman to win a Commonwealth weightlifting medal, with a third-placed finish in India, a performance which was recognised at the Sports Journalists' Association annual awards ceremony earlier this month when she was presented with the best Outstanding International Newcomer from former England cricket captain Alec Stewart.

BWL staff claim they became concerned about her commitment after Smith, who is 5ft 2in and normally weighs around nine stone, arrived at a recent training camp, they claim, overweight and with no training programme.

Her lack of commitment to a structured programme was one of the key reasons why she did not take part in the European Junior Championships in Cyprus last month, they said.

The BWL World Class Programme claimed they could not continue to support an athlete who was not committed to following a structured training programme or ensuring they stabilised their body weight.

BWL Performance Manager Fiona Lothian said: "Zoe is an amazing talent but we all know that any athlete with talent still has to work hard if they are to realise their true potential.

"On World Class Programmes athletes are funded not only because they are good, but because they are willing to work hard to become even better."

Smith was stunned by the decision.

She said: "I am obviously gutted to feel that I do not have the support of my governing body after everything that I have achieved this year, not least my bronze medal success at the Commonwealth Games.

"I am a 16-year-old girl and have to balance the pressures of school and my life away from weightlifting with training and competition.

"I will just carry on working hard as I always have to prove to them [the governing body] that you just can't have the success that I have had through talent alone."

The decision to withdraw Smith's personal funding will be reviewed after the Tri-Nations Tournament on February 12, and will be reinstated if training has been consistent and she has been working with the nutritionist.

Additionally, BWL have told Smith that she is required to commit to five training sessions per week of at least 90 minutes, and work with the World Class Programme nutritionist to ensure an optimal body weight, and be back lifting agreed weights by the Tri-Nations.


It is the second time this year that Smith has had her funding suspended by BWL.

Earlier it was stopped briefly following a dispute over her coaching programme, with the governing body wanting her to move from her home to be under their supervision in Leeds, which would have taken her away from her personal coach, Andy Callard, and disrupted her schooling.

Smith's agent Gab Stone reacted angrily to the latest announcement.

He said: "Zoe is shocked and surprised at the decision - given the landmark success at the Commonwealth Games.

"She has had a very difficult year, juggling training, her GCSE's, competitions, media interest and now her A-Levels, she needs support.

"Zoe is still young and to tell a 16-year-old to lose weight adds additional pressures."

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