Glasgow 2014: Ex-sprinter Christie Williams makes weightlifting squad

Former sprinter Christie Williams has been selected for Wales' Commonwealth Games weightlifting team just 16 months after taking up the sport.

Williams began weightlifting in January 2013 after injury forced her to give up athletics.

She will be competing in the same category in Glasgow as her coach - two-time gold medallist Michaela Breeze.

"I can't wait. I'm counting down the days now," said Williams.

Also selected are British champion Gareth Evans and 20 year-old Darius Jokarzadeh from Cardiff, who is returning from playing American football in Pennsylvania to compete at the Games.

Wales' Glasgow 2014 weightlifting team

Women:

58kg:

Michaela Breeze

Christie Williams

63kg:

Faye Pittman

Stephanie Owens

69kg:

Natasha Perdue

Men:

62kg:

Gareth Evans

105+ kg:

Darius Jokarzadeh

Faye Pittman, 31, from Cardiff, and 23-year-old Stephanie Owens from Flintshire are also making their Commonwealth Games debut in the 63kg category, joining Natasha Perdue who is set to compete at her third.

Owens has already represented Wales in athletics and figure skating.

Williams, 21, from Aberaman in Rhondda Cynon Taff, used to compete in the 100m and javelin for Bridgend Athletic and Wales.

But problems with her knees forced her to look for another sport, so she decided to try weightlifting at Breeze's gym in Aberdare following advice from a friend.

Breeze, who won gold at the 2002 and 2006 Games and captained the Wales team in Delhi four years ago, winning silver, was impressed by Williams from an early stage.

"I think it was probably the first week she was in here [gym]," said Breeze, "that I said 'hang on a minute, we've got some potential here'.

"The sheer power and natural strength that she had already developed from being a sprinter... that was fairly clear and obvious.

"I believe it was a few weeks after that when I said 'okay Commonwealth Games qualification, these are the targets you need to hit, are you up for it?'"

Williams admitted she was surprised by the faith shown in her by Breeze.

"It was kind of surreal," she said.

"I did my first competition in March and she [Breeze] said 'we can do this'. It's a doable challenge, so I stepped up and thought why not?"

Williams went on to lift the A standard for the 58kg category and was in training with Breeze when they both found out they had been selected for the Games in July.

"I got a phone call... and just flooded with emotion, tears, everything," said Williams.

"Mic [Michaela] was with me. She had a little cry as well. I'm still in shock. It's such an honour.

"To get to where I am after just over a year's worth of training realistically shouldn't happen, but I've just pushed to the limits and trained to the best that I can and it's got me to here.

Breeze's Commonwealth record

Manchester 2002:

Gold - 58kg snatch

Silver - 58kg clean and jerk

Silver - 58kg total

Melbourne 2006:

Gold - 63kg

Delhi 2010:

Silver - 63kg

"I think it's mostly down to Mic's coaching. If I went and attempted this on my own in a gym with no coaching God knows what shape I'd end up in.

"So to be selected is an honour. It's amazing."

Wales are targeting one weightlifting medal at the Games.

As for Williams' aims in Glasgow, she says she is going for the experience with the hope to continue her rapid progress in the sport.

"She's [Breeze] really changed things for me and I'd like to know where I can go from here," said Williams.

"If after a year I'm at the Commonwealth Games, where can I be in four or five years?

"Realistically I'd like to achieve five or six lifts in the competition if nerves don't hit me.

"I'd like to achieve new personal bests in the snatch, and clean and jerk, and in the overall.

"With the adrenalin and everything, I should have that bit of extra energy to be able to push myself that bit more.

"I just want to achieve and make the Welsh proud."

Breeze, who came out of retirement in a bid to compete in Glasgow in December, says she is proud of Williams' achievement.

"As coach it really is quite special to be able to have coached somebody who's been able to achieve this level in such a short space of time," said Breeze.

"To be competing with them again is I think any coach's dream, but I honestly hope that Christie can go on to break my records and be even better and achieve more."

TEAMS

Women's team:

58kg:

Michaela Breeze

Christie Williams

63kg:

Faye Pittman

Stephanie Owens

69kg:

Natasha Perdue

Men's team:

62kg:

Gareth Evans

105+ kg:

Darius Jokarzadeh