By Mike Rowbottom
July 5 - Sixteen-year-old Zoe Smith (pictured) today became the youngest athlete selected for England at the Delhi Commonwealth Games when she was named in a 12-strong weightlifting team.
Smith, who has just completed her GCSE exams, will join weightlifters Gurbinder Cheema and Jo Calvino, who both finished fourth at the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games, and by Beijing 2008 Paralympian Ali Jawad.
Today’s announcement takes the number of athletes selected for the England team for Delhi to date to 67.
Despite her age, Smith is no stranger to international success having struck gold at under-53kg at the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune, India when at just 14, she was the youngest member of the England team.
She also won the silver medal in the 58kg class at the European Youth Championships in Spain last month.
In the four years since taking up weightlifting the former gymnast has broken more than 300 records and currently holds the senior English records at both 58kg and 63kg for the snatch, clean & jerk and combined total, as well as the 53kg snatch record.
Smith, who is a month younger than swimmer Rebecca Ajula-Bushell - already selected by England for Delhi - said she is looking forward to competing in Delhi.
"I’m pretty excited about it," she said.
"At the moment it’s as big as the Olympic Games to me.
"I think it will really help me on the way to [London] 2012.
"The atmosphere there will be phenomenal.
"I really enjoyed being in Pune and I’m looking forward to going back to India.
"Like everyone else, I’m obviously going for gold in Delhi.
"I think that’s a realistic prospect.
"I’m going to give it my all and see what happens on the day."
Smith is currently 13th in the Commonwealth rankings for the under-58kg class, one place below team-mate Helen Jewell, who contests the same division for England in Delhi.
Smith is expected to climb much higher up the rankings once they are updated to take account of her performances at the European Youths.
Maggie Lynes, England’s weightlifting team manager, said: "Zoe has demonstrated her potential to podium at major championships and it’s very exciting to have her in the team.
"I think the whole team has the potential to do well in Delhi.
"They are all capable of performing on the day and now selection is out of the way, they can focus on their training for the Commonwealth Games."
Cheema (pictured) and Calvino are both competing at their third successive Commonwealth Games.
"Cheema won bronze in the 105kg snatch on his Commonwealth Games debut in Manchester 2002, the last Games when medals were awarded for both types of lifts, the snatch and the clean & jerk, as well as for the combined total.
He lifted the same total as the bronze medallist in Melbourne four years ago but missed out on a medal with a heavier body weight than his opponent.
Delhi will be the third Commonwealth Games to feature women’s weightlifting and powerlifting for elite athletes with disabilities.
It is the first to feature a women’s powerlifting competition for disabled athletes.
Beijing 2008 Paralympian Ali Jawad is among the three England powerlifters selected today.
He finished ninth in the 75kg class in Beijing.
Craig Hunter, England’s Chef de Mission for Delhi, said: "I’d like to congratulate our weightlifters on their selection for the England Commonwealth Games team and wish them the very best of luck for their continuing preparations for Delhi and at the Games."
Further names are likely to be added to the England weightlifting team for Delhi.
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