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8 March 2024


As part of International Women's Day, Weightlifting Wales athlete Leah Clarke has wrote the following article to sum up her experiences participating in the sport.

I was introduced to the sport by some friends who were weightlifting at the gym I trained in. They encouraged me to try it and the rest is history. My proudest sporting achievement is lifting at an international event and fulfilling my lifetime dream despite all the hardships and hurdles I faced along the way. My future goal in my athletic career is simply to make more good memories. I want to compete internationally again if my body will allow it, but my love for the sport and people within it inspires me to keep pushing to get more out of myself and hopefully wear my Welsh singlet again.

Shalane Flanigan’s quote has been a long-term inspiration for me, she said; “ In the midst of an ordinary training day, I try to remind myself that I am preparing for the extraordinary “


I think being prone to greater emotional fluctuations has been hard, but I’ve found talking therapies and psychological support extremely helpful and would encourage athletes to reach out if they are finding their emotions are affecting their training.

I struggled as a teenager with being laughed at and bullied by some boys at college who thought I shouldn’t be in the gym, but most of the stereotypes I have faced have motivated me to be a better athlete. I’ve been fortunate that opportunities have opened up to me throughout my whole athletic career, but most of my life I have spent playing sports within boys teams and I didn’t have the benefit of any female role models or coaches until I was about 16. I was playing water polo at GB level and had a coach/mentor called Mandy Greening who was very old school but inspired belief in me because she had a very similar goalkeeping technique and mindset. This went against the typical coaching at the time, by luckily for me matched my old school technique and she encouraged me to have belief in my method of moving in the water. I’ve never forgotten this, and although she has sadly passed away, the impact she left on me to believe in my ability has remained.


I spent most of my life playing sports I wasn’t physically cut out for. I couldn’t run as fast as the other football players or keep up with the swim speed at water polo, but I was strong and could beat any of the male or female athletes at the strength tests. It wasn’t until I started going to the gym I realised my body was made for strength sports, and my message is that being athletic has been stereotyped into being slim and cardiovascularly fit, but this isn’t true. Women can be big and strong and just because you can’t run or swim for long periods of time doesn’t mean you aren’t good at sport, it just means you haven’t found the right sport.

You never know what you can be good at until you try it, and there are so many female athletes out there who could lift to a high level. Be inquisitive and don’t be scared to make mistakes, there is no failure in trying.

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