GB weightlifting making 'exciting' progress en route to 2012 Olympics

After breaking 21 national records at last week's world championships, Great Britain's weightlifters might just be ready to make an impact at London 2012.

Commonwealth bronze medallist Zoe Smith made two personal-best lifts and was joined by team-mates Jack Oliver and Natasha Perdue in securing the Olympic 'B' qualification standard in France.

"I'm very excited about the improvement people have made this year," GB performance manager Fiona Lothian told BBC Sport.

"The fact that they still have another six months until the end of qualification I think gives us some really good opportunities."

As hosts, British Weightlifting receives five guaranteed places at the 2012 Olympics , three for men and two for women.

Lothian believes they can qualify each of their athletes at the Olympic 'A' standard  by May next year, but who are the strongest contenders for Team GB?

ZOE SMITH: -63kg or -58kg division

The 17-year-old is British weightlifting's highest-profile athlete.

Smith has broken more than 300 records since switching from gymnastics at the age of 11 and announced herself on the global stage by claiming Commonwealth bronze in Delhi last year. In doing so, she became the first English woman to win a Commonwealth medal.

Zoe Smith's year

Zoe Smith
  • October 2010 - wins a Commonwealth bronze medal
  • December 2010 - loses personal Olympic funding after a row over her attitude in training
  • January 2011 - helps England retain Tri-Nations title in Norway
  • February 2011 - personal Olympic funding restored
  • March 2011 - quits college to focus on full-time training
  • April 2011 - leaves London and bases herself in Leeds with the British team
  • May 2011 - wins World Youth silver in Peru
  • August 2011 - misses Euro Youths with a back injury
  • November 2011 - sets 15 British records and attains Olympic 'B' qualifying standard at the World Championships

Since then Smith has endured a true roller coaster of emotions - losing her personal funding following a row over her commitment to training, leaving school , leaving her home in London and relocating to Leeds.

She also struggled with injury in the lead-up to the World Championships at Disneyland Paris and, as a result, British Weightlifting decided not to push her for Olympic 'A' standard in Paris.

However, Smith says that after her record-breaking performances she is back in a "good place" and Lothian is pleased with her progress.

"Zoe's technique has improved substantially and I think having day-to-day coaching has helped immensely with that," said Lothian.

"I think there's huge potential for her to improve and it's really making sure that she's got consistent training - if we can do that then I think she is certainly an 'A' finalist [in London]."

Smith, who finished 15th  in the -63kg category at the World Championships, is expected to drop down to the -58kg division for London 2012.

"I think I would be more competitive at the lower weight," Smith told BBC Sport.

"I've had a body-fat scan and it says that I could get down - I'm just lazy, so I'm going to come down and kick some butt!"

PETER KIRKBRIDE: -94kg division

The 23-year-old from Irvine won a silver medal for Scotland at last year's Commonwealth Games.

Meet British champion Peter Kirkbride

However, he missed the World Championships due to an ankle injury sustained while winning another silver  , at the Commonwealth Championships in South Africa.

"Peter has made some technical changes and was disappointed to miss the Worlds," said Lothian.

"He is on a par with Gareth [Evans] and Jack [Oliver] and competition to reach those 'A' standards should spur him on for the European Championships next year."

JACK OLIVER and HALIL ZORBA: -77kg division

"If we could have a combination of Jack and Halil we would have an amazing lifter," said Lothian.

Oliver lifted a new personal-best total of 300kg , attaining the Olympic 'B' standard, and achieved two British records with a 140kg snatch.

JACK OLIVER PROFILE

  • Born in Sidcup
  • Began lifting at age 14
  • Coached by Andrew Callard
  • Finished eighth at 2010 Commonwealth Games after lifting 269kg total
  • Supports Newcastle United

The 20-year-old University of Leeds student finished eighth at last year's Commonwealth Games.

Zorba, who is related to former world javelin champion Fatima Whitbread , is stronger in the clean-and-jerk element of competition.

He managed two personal bests in a total lift of 290kg, which was just one kilo short of Olympic qualifying 'B' standard.

OTHER BRITISH CONTENDERS

-69kg lifter Gareth Evans  has given up more than most in the pursuit of his Olympic dream.

GB World Championship results

  • Joanne Calvino (-48kg) - 22nd
  • Gareth Evans (-69kg) - 41st
  • Jack Oliver (-77kg) - 27th
  • Natasha Perdue (-69kg) - 29th
  • Hannah Powell (-48kg) - DNF*
  • Zoe Smith (-63kg) - 15th
  • Ben Watson (-105kg) - 30th
  • Halil Zorba (-77kg) - 29th

* failed to attain a recorded lift

Earlier this year he left his wife and young daughter behind in Wales and relocated to train full-time with the British team.

Evans, 25, was just two kilograms off the 'B' standard in Paris and is predicted to make further improvements after stepping up from the -63kg division.

Natasha Perdue lifted 4kg's above the 'B' standard, but was frustrated after failing to push her overall total of 198kg higher.

"She will lift at the Olympic test event [in December], which will be a good opportunity for her to show what's there as she has been lifting significantly more in training," Lothian told BBC Sport.

Joanne Calvino is the best-placed of the Britons in the women's -48kg category after setting two British records, while her team-mate Hannah Powell  failed to record a clean-and-jerk lift.

Lothian, however, insists that there is still plenty of time for Powell and heavyweight lifter Ben Watson  , who has struggled with injury in 2011, to achieve the targets they need to qualify for London 2012.

"We've set ourselves a target of getting someone in the top five [in London] and if you can place someone around there, then anything can happen," concluded Lothian.

Zoe Smith breaks 15 British records at the World Championships in Paris