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Zorba aims to lift London in 2012

Halil Zorba

By Saj Chowdhury

'British weightlifting' and 'success' have rarely been bedfellows on the world or Olympic stage.

In a sport dominated by lifters from Asia, the former Soviet states, Turkey and Greece, Britain has lagged behind in the last 20 years.

In total, Team GB has picked up seven Olympic weightlifting medals - the last was a bronze won by David Mercer in the 94kg category at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

But teenager Halil Zorba is hoping to bring an end to Britain's barren run in the sport.

Zorba, of Turkish-Cypriot heritage, is 19 but has already broken into the world's top 100 in his weight division, 69kg.

I have no one to compete with in the juniors because I'm better than any other junior lifter

Beijing 2008 has come too early for him, but Zorba has set his sights on glory at London 2012.

"The 2012 Olympics will be my stepping stone but I think I can achieve something at those Games," said the student, who is studying civil engineering in Brighton but comes from Tower Hamlets in east London, one of the host boroughs for the 2012 Games.

"You need to believe in yourself and it would be great to perform in my back yard."

Zorba, whose discipline involves two lifts - clean and jerk, and snatch - is happy with his progress to date.

Halil Zorba
They say that if I miss the camps I could lose my funding. What can I do?

"I can't wait to compete regularly in the senior competitions. I had a taste for it last year in the British Senior Championships and the London Open," he told BBC Sport.

"I have no one to compete with in the juniors because I'm better than any other junior lifter.

"Last year, I was ranked second in the British Senior Championship and made it into the top 100 in the world rankings."

A back injury has interrupted Zorba's season and, although he is back doing light training, he is unlikely to compete at the European championships in April.

A more nagging concern for the powerhouse is trying to balance training and competition with his university life.

"When I was at college, fitting everything in was OK," he said.

"But at university I'm having to cope with ever-changing timetables - so I'm finding it hard to keep to a consistent training schedule.

"My course is also very hard so it keeps you on your toes."

Having to maintain competition fitness with several two-hour sessions a week is one thing, but needing to prove himself worthy of lottery funding is an added stress.

"I used to enjoy going to the gym but now I feel it's a job because I'm working for my funding," added the Londoner.

606: DEBATE
BBC Sport's Peter Scrivener
"I also have to go to camps, but sometimes with university work it's hard to attend them. They say that if I miss the camps I could lose my funding. What can I do?"

If Zorba manages to overcome the obstacles that stand in his way and qualify for the 2012 Games, he knows he can count on advice from a two-time Olympic javelin medallist.

"Fatima Whitbread is a relation on my mum's side of the family," he said of the 1987 world champion.

"I would love to meet her. She was at a family reunion recently but I couldn't attend it. If I have the opportunity get her advice in the future then I'd gratefully accept it."

Halil Zorba is among the British athletes who BBC Sport will be following during the countdown to London 2012.


see also
Beginner's guide to weightlifting
02 Jul 07 |  Weightlifting
Team GB for Beijing
29 Nov 07 |  Team GB


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