Zoe Smith celebrated her Commonwealth Games weightlifting gold medal with a back-flip before revealing how her dramatic victory in the women’s 58kg division had been sparked by a last-minute chocolate binge.
The 20-year-old Londoner lifted 118kgs with her third and final lift in the clean and jerk to set a new Games record total of 210kg, enough to see off Nigeria’s Ndidi Winifred with Welsh veteran Michaela Breeze taking bronze.
Smith’s excited celebrations signalled a release of the pressures of expectation which have been building up since she marked her major Games debut in Delhi four years ago by winning a bronze medal at the age of just 16.
But Smith’s path to gold was anything but plain sailing as she was left battling desperately to make the weight for competition after arriving in the Athletes’ Village earlier in the week.
Smith said: “I had a bit of a scare a couple of days ago because I still had a good two and a half kilos to come down so I cut out the carbs and I didn’t drink for the majority of yesterday.
“I was suffering a little bit so post-weight that first bite of chocolate was the best thing I’ve ever tasted. There was chocolate everywhere – I’m surprised I managed to waddle out onto the platform actually, my belly was so big.”
Smith’s late panic in some ways sums up her progress towards the top of the senior ranks, having temporarily had her funding withdrawn by her own governing body after her Delhi success, and also struggling after London 2012 with a persistent back injury.
Smith, who spent time between Games training at the high performance centre at Leeds Metropolitan University, added: “This has been a long time coming – I’ve had a thousand conversations and thoughts about the Commonwealth Games and now I’m glad the gold is hanging round my neck.
“I knew I was able to do it but getting it on the day was another thing and having it over my head and getting the sound signal was just the biggest wave of relief I’ve ever felt.”
Smith is convinced she can use her Glasgow gold medal as a platform to spring into the next phase of career with an eye on the Rio Olympics in 2016.
“I want to be a contender in Rio – I want to be in the running,” said Smith.
Leeds-based Jack Oliver finished an agonising fourth place in the 77kg final last night, the Leeds University graduate lifting 313kg and missing out on the medals by a single kilo. Sarah Davies, also based in Leeds, finished seventh in the final of the women’s 63kg.