PUBLISHED: 11:41 05 August 2014 | UPDATED: 11:41 05 August 2014
Zoe Newson has not let disability prevent her from competing at the highest level. Julian Claxton met the Paralympic powerlifter at her Suffolk home
“The weight and size of the medal came as quite a surprise,” laughs Zoe, as she hands over a box containing a rather special memento from London 2012.
It feels surreal to be sitting here, drinking coffee and chatting to the Ipswich born Paralympic athlete Zoe Newson, 22, who in 2012 came away from the London games with a bronze medal.
The journey from Suffolk girl to medal winning athlete began a few years ago when Zoe was an East Bergholt High School pupil.
“I got approached when I was playing sports and I was asked if I wanted to join a power lifting team that was then being set up, initially I didn’t fancy it as I enjoyed watching my brothers play football,” says Zoe, a massive football fan.
To my untrained eye the art of power >>
>> lifting looks pretty simple, lay down on a bench and lift the heaviest weights you can. But Zoe demonstrates there is far more to this sport than meets the eye and it took her around 12 months to lift the bar and master the techniques of this intense sport.
“My coach said I should start to go for competitions, but I was nervous, so kept making excuses. Then, one day, he had a word with my parents who were unaware I was ready to compete. Needless to say I received fantastic support from them, so decided to give competitions a go.”
Following an intense training plan, her personal best is currently 93kg, although her aim is to lift an astonishing 100kg. Medals and competition wins do not come overnight and there are sacrifices to be made. As well holding down a job, Zoe trains six days a week , following a precise plan. And power lifting is not just about lifting – it’s a team effort that requires enormous dedication.
In addition to intense training, Zoe also has to stick to a diet to keep her weight at the right level for competing.
“I hate being on a diet, I’m such a fussy eater. This is something I really struggle with and I always worry that I will be outside the weight allowance. Once, the night before I was competing, I got on the scales and was so angry I stamped on the scales and broke them.”
I bend down to pick up a rather hefty 20kg and Zoe laughs at my discomfort. She prepares the bar and slides under. Laying on her back, arms vertical, gripping the metal bar, she slowly works the 45kg training weights.
On this occasion the temperature in the gym is just about right, but during the winter months Zoe is often wrapped in coats and scarves, and even has a hot water bottle strapped to her chest.
Zoe lifted 88kg to win her bronze medal.
“I knew I lifted the best I could and thought I was in fourth place, but then the last competitor made a mistake and the bronze was mine.
“It was the most magical moment ever, I couldn’t believe it. I was shaking with excitement, especially when I noticed family and friends all cheering.”