With just 46 days to go until the start of the London 2012 Olympics, the British Olympic Association (BOA) has announced today five weightlifters as officially selected to compete for Team GB at the Games.
The five selected athletes – three men and two women – represent the largest contingent of weightlifters Team GB has taken to an Olympics Games since Barcelona 1996, when there were six British weightlifters.
All five athletes will be competing at their first Olympic Games in London and will be aiming to produce their personal best during the competition which takes place at the ExCeL Arena in London Docklands from 28th July to 7th August.
The weightlifters selected to Team GB today are:
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The squad includes Welsh duo Gareth Evans and Natasha Perdue, who will compete in the men and women’s 69kg categories respectively. Gareth gave up his job as a painter and decorator in Holyhead to pursue his Olympic dream and train full time at the Weightlifting Performance Centre in Leeds. Although he will be competing in his first Olympic Games, Gareth has experience of performing on the international stage after finishing third at the Commonwealth Championships in South Africa last year.
Swansea-born Natasha was a former national Karate Champion before she switched to weightlifting. She has had to combine her full-time training regime with her day job at the refuse department of Leeds City Council in the build up to the Games. By competing at London 2012, she is following in her father Terry’s footsteps, who represented Great Britain at the Mexico 1968 and Munich 1972 Olympic Games, finishing tenth on both occasions.
Eighteen-year-old Zoe Smith is the youngest member of the team and will compete in the Women’s 58kg category. Originally a gymnast, she switched to weightlifting aged 13 and has broken youth, junior and senior records on her way to Olympic selection. She displayed her exciting talent and potential by claiming bronze at the 2010 Commonwealth Games at just 16 years old.
Peter Kirkbride, 24, who won silver at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, and 21-year-old Jack Oliver who has been weightlifting since the age of 14, complete the weightlifting squad.
The addition of the five weightlifters brings the total number of athletes officially selected to compete for Team GB at London 2012 to 195 across seventeen sport disciplines: archery, athletics – marathon, badminton, boxing, canoe slalom, fencing, hockey, modern pentathlon, rowing, sailing, shooting, swimming, synchronised swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, triathlon and weightlifting.
The athletes were formally nominated to the BOA for selection to Team GB by British Weight Lifting, the National Governing Body for weightlifting in the UK.
Team GB Chef de Mission Andy Hunt said:
“As we move inside the final 50 days of preparation for the London 2012 Olympic Games, I am delighted to announce the selection of five weightlifters to Team GB. This is the largest weightlifting squad we have assembled for an Olympic Games since Barcelona 1992 and it possesses a good balance of youth and experience.
“All five athletes will be competing at their first Olympic Games and we will work closely with them to help prepare for the unique nature of the Olympic environment. The home support and encouragement they will receive from the Team GB fans in London will no doubt give them a lift and hopefully spur them on to perform to the very best of their ability on the Olympic stage.
“The dedication and commitment demonstrated by the athletes to their sport has been fantastic, whether it be Gareth Evans quitting his job and moving to Leeds to train full time, or Natasha Perdue switching from karate to weightlifting. The youngest member of the team, Zoe Smith, has already achieved a number of records in her short career, and will be aiming to deliver another exciting performance in her home city of London.”
Team GB Weightlifting Head Coach Tamas Feher said:
“I am convinced we will participate at London with our strongest and best prepared team. Our five young strong-bodied and strong-minded athletes will show to millions around the world and in their own country exactly what it means to be a British weightlifter.
“The final stage of qualification was hard, and all involved competitors did their best. There was a lot of sweat, pain and sacrifice, which is usual with weightlifting! But now all team members are ready for the hardest 50 days' work of their lives to make sure they put in their best performance ever in front of their own fans.
“I have great pride in being the Team GB Weightlifting Head Coach and preparing and coaching such great athletes like ours. We have a great team in which all athletes support each other and I am sure they will give unforgettable moments to all Team GB fans and will push British weightlifting even further forwards.”
Athlete Natasha Perdue said:
“I can’t describe in words how happy I feel and I keep pinching myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. I waited two weeks for the call, and when it came I didn’t want to answer it in case it was bad news. I asked them to repeat it about three times just to make sure!”
Athlete Gareth Evans said:
“I’m ecstatic. It is testament to the sacrifice I have made and the hard work I have put in over the years. I would just like to thank everyone who has supported me so far.”
Athlete Zoe Smith said:
“I’m elated to have been selected for the team. It has been a nerve-wracking period ahead of selection, so I’m glad that I’ve now secured my place and can definitely say I’ll be representing Team GB at the Games!”
Athlete Jack Oliver said:
“I’m really excited to be a part of this once in a lifetime chance. Having been part of the BOA’s Olympic Ambition programme during the Beijing games, I experienced what it’s like to be a part of an Olympic Games. I feel ready to rise to the occasion and try to make my country proud.”
Athlete Peter Kirkbride said:
“I’m excited to find out about being selected as part of the team, and I wish all the other athletes all the best of luck for the Olympics. Winning Commonwealth silver was a great moment for me, and I hope to perform better than I did in Delhi.”