Commonwealth Games: Black rises above clichés

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On THE list of “sexy” sports it is fair to say that women’s weightlifting probably comes well down the list of your average male chauvinist tabloid editor.

Which is why the arrival of Sarah Davies in the Commonwealth Games weightlifting competition pleased the red tops and even the supposedly equality-minded BBC, which ran a feature on Davies and her weightlifter boyfriend Jack Oliver, who is also in Team England.

Davies is relatively new to the sport, but already she has had more attention than all her opponents in yesterday’s under-63kgs competition put together. The reason is simple to see.

For Davies is a former Miss Leeds and Miss England contestant, a genuine beauty queen who has brought a touch of glamour to a frankly unglamorous grunt of a sport. Davies herself is rather more concerned with levitating avoirdupois rather than promoting her own pulchritude, and all the glaringly sexist articles about her have been water off a duck’s back.

A PE teacher by profession, Davies knows she is no world beater at the sport, but she gets the usual headlines that accompany any pretty woman in sport. To her credit, Davies has pledged to change the image of beauty queens and weightlifters.

She said recently: “I hope that because I’m so far from the stereotypical beauty queen, young people will realise that the way to get the body you want isn’t through starving yourself.”

While photographers queued up to snap away while she was lifting yesterday, to be fair there was no massive press pack chasing quotes from Davies.

Pity, because they would have seen Davies provide a real sporting story, coming back from failing with her first two lifts – for those not in the know, weightlifters are eliminated if they fail with three lifts – and then go on to lift a total of 188 kgs to finish in seventh overall, better than she was expected to do.

If determination to succeed is a key element in any sportsperson, Davies, who is also a county class golfer, will go far in whatever sport she chooses. She can’t help her looks but, in future, the media may focus on her sporting achievements – some hope.

There were other good stories to be had at the Armadillo, which was packed with cheering fans of the lifting sport and a certain member of the Royal Family – the announcer said it was Prince Andrew, but it looked awfully like his younger brother, and indeed it was Prince Edward, accompanied by his wife Sophie.

With her hair dyed blue and with a saltire design through it, there is no doubting Georgina Black’s love of her country. She is also a typical Scot in that she doesn’t let success go to her head.

With her final lift, and knowing that she could finish no higher than ninth, Kilmarnock woman Black decided to go for a new Scottish record in the clean and jerk of 100 kgs – or nearly 16 stones in old money.

Black stepped forward and nailed the lift, kissing the saltire on her badge as she left the stage with a new Scottish record.

Was she chuffed? Not really: “I’m happy to have done it, but it was my own record anyhow.”

A typical piece of Scottish downplaying, though that word could not be used to describe the hyper-enthusiastic crowd.

“Typically Scottish, just totally mental,” said Black. “They were really overwhelming.”

Black lost half the fat on her body to make the 63kgs weight limit and will now move up a weight division: “I came down 12kgs in 18 months and that has been my biggest struggle to get into this competition.” Her patriotic hairdo was not a political statement: “I got it done to support Scotland. I told my gran she might not like it but she won’t miss me on the television.”

The contest itself became gripping towards the end after all the home nations were eliminated – curiously, the British girls did not grunt or scream, while Asians and Africans alike pumped themselves up by grunting and screeching.

It worked, as India’s Punam Yadav lifted 110kgs in the clean and jerk only to see the two Nigerian competitors, defending champion Obioma Okoli and Olayuwatoyin Adesanmi surpass her total weight.

In a tremendous finale, Adesanmi went into the lead with a total two-lift weight of 207 kgs, forcing Okoli to try to lift 123 kgs with her final clean and jerk attempt. It would have been a new Games record, but the chunky little Nigerian just could not move the bar upwards and the gold went to Adesanmi. They embraced warmly afterwards, having won gold and silver for their country.

Terrific sport, tremendous competition and for what it’s worth, and please don’t think this is sexist, not one of the 11 finalists looked anything like a man.