Zoe Smith to miss European Youths due to a back injury

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter
Zoe Smith
Zoe Smith won a Commonwealth bronze medal in Delhi last year, but has struggled with injuries in 2011

Commonwealth bronze medallist Zoe Smithexternal-link has withdrawn from the Great Britain squad for the European Youth Championshipsexternal-link, citing a back injury.

The 17-year-old from London is unlikely to return to lifting before November, when 2012 Olympic qualification begins.

"It's a recurring back injury, which a lot of weightlifters get," said Smith.

"It's annoying because I've got lots of important competitions coming up this year and it would have been nice to get a solid block of training in.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Smith added: "Dealing with injury is just part of being a professional athlete though and it's something that I'm going to have to live with."

It has been a difficult year for the teenager, who had her personal Olympic funding withdrawn by the sport's governing body just before Christmas - after a perceived lack of effort in training, which followed her success in Delhi.

However, Smith's funding was restored in February after a strong performance in a Tri-nations competition in Norway.

She subsequently postponed her academic studies to concentrate full-time on qualifying for the London Olympics and in June left London to join the rest of the British weightliftingexternal-link team, full-time, at their National Performance Centre in Leeds.

"It's been tough and there are lots of things that I miss about home - I could write a book about it," reflected Smith.

"Not having my family around is hard because they are always really supportive, but I've learned to be more independent."

Smith sustained a shoulder injury whilst claiming silver at the World Youth Championships in Peru in May, but added that she hopes the GB weightliftingexternal-link support team will help her overcome the injury problems before the key 2012 qualification events.

"The World Championshipsexternal-link [in Paris in November] are going to be huge, because it will be my first big senior competition," she said.

"Obviously I did the Commonwealths last year, but the Worlds are another scale completely, so it would be a big step."

British Weightlifting have been granted five host-nation places for the 2012 Olympics, two of which will be for female lifters.

"The World Championships will be my first chance to qualify for the Olympics, so if I do my total, that would put me one-step closer to making London," added Smith.

Should Smith be unable to compete in Paris, or fail to attain the desired lift, she will have a second opportunity at the 2012 test event, which takes place 10-11 December at London's ExCeL Centreexternal-link.

Despite Smith's withdrawal, British Weightlifting will still send a three-strong team to the European Youth Championshipsexternal-link, with Alex Collierexternal-link, Sonny Websterexternal-link and Josh Farghalyexternal-link all due to travel to Poland later this month.

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