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Weightlifter Zoe Smith quits college to focus on 2012

Zoe Smith

Zoe Smith - Life as a teenage aspiring Olympian

By Nick Hope
BBC Olympic Sports Reporter

Weightlifter Zoe Smith has quit her A-levels to focus on qualifying for the 2012 Olympics.

The Londoner won Commonwealth bronze in Delhi last year, but has spoken about the difficulties of combining training, studying and competing.

"It was a hard decision, but I still aspire to go to university one day," said Smith, 16.

"I just feel the pressure of both exams and performance targets will ultimately have a negative effect on results."

She intends to return to her studies after the London Games, but for now is determined to take her chance of competing in the city of her birth in 2012.

As a publicly-funded athlete, I have a responsibility to do that justice and pay back the commitment people have shown in me

Zoe Smith

"The chance to compete in front of my home crowd is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I want to be able to get myself into the best shape possible," she added.

"I now have an amazing chance to work with my coaches full-time and focus completely on my personal development through sport."

In December Smith had her personal Olympic funding suspended by weightlifting's governing body after being deemed overweight. She was also accused of showing a poor attitude towards training.

However, she was subsequently reinstated on full funding in February, following what British Weight Lifting described as a "powerful performance" at the Tri-Nations competition in Norway.

"I am very aware that as a publicly-funded athlete, I have a responsibility to do that justice and pay back the commitment people have shown in me," said Smith.

The teenager is now expected to spend a greater amount of time training with the rest of the GB weightlifting team, who are based in Leeds.

"We are fully supportive of Zoe's decision to take a break from her studies and focus on full-time training in the lead-up to London 2012," said British Weight Lifting performance manager Fiona Lothian.

Meet teenage weightlifter Zoe Smith

"We are looking forward to her being able to spend more time at the High Performance Centre in Leeds."

Smith told the BBC earlier this year that she knew her A-levels would be tougher than GCSE studies, but was surprised by just how difficult they were.

But she takes comfort from the fact there are other athletes who have made similar moves and who have still been able to return to education later in their lives.

"I reached my decision having spoken to other athletes who had to make the same decision," she commented.

"The conversations I've had left me comfortable in the knowledge that I could now commit to my training full-time and go back to my studies after the 2012 Games."

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see also
Weightlifting granted 2012 places
01 Mar 11 |  Weightlifting
Smith's Olympic funding restored
22 Feb 11 |  Weightlifting
What makes Zoe Smith special?
06 Oct 10 |  Commonwealth Games
Smith wins weightlifting bronze
06 Oct 10 |  Commonwealth Games
Michaela Breeze's weightlifting guide
21 Apr 08 |  Weightlifting
Weightlifting basics
04 Jul 08 |  Weightlifting

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