Craig Salmon talks to Preston’s Australia-bound weightlifter Sarah Davies. She will be competing at the Commonwealth Games on the Goald Coast in two months time
There’s always a raising of the eyebrow and a surprised nod of the head whenever Sarah Davies meets somebody new.
After all, how many times is someone likely to come across a beauty queen with a penchant for lifting twice her body weight?
The Preston-born 25-year-old lives quite the double life.
One day she can be found in the gym training as an elite weightlifter.
And then the next she can be ‘dressed to the nines’ striking the pose at various beauty pageants up and down the country.
It is perhaps fair to say Davies does not quite conform to the archetypal look of a weightlifter.
But the former Garstang High School pupil – who will compete at this year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, in Australia – revels in the fact that she is able to excel in two disciplines which are viewed at opposite ends of life’s spectrum.
A former Miss Leeds – she attended university in the city – Davies believes her ‘other career’ is a major positive for her sport, dispelling the notion that a weightlifter cannot keep their femininity.
And she admits that she quite enjoys the nickname she has among her fellow GB team-mates.
“They call me the princess of the team,” said Davies with a laugh.
“My team-mates have got used to what I do away from the sport, although it does make for an interesting tale whenever I meet somebody new.
“To people who are outside of the sport, they expect weightlifters to be all manly and muscly. They probably can’t imagine that a weightlifter could also enter beauty pageants.
“But when I meet new people within the sport, they are always a little bit surprised when I tell them what else I do.
“But I think they like it because weightlifting, especially women’s weightlifting, has quite a bad stereotype.
“So when I meet other lifters, they think its quite a positive thing and that I’m portraying the sport in a positive light.
“What the beauty pageants do is give me something to concentrate on away from weightlifting.
“I see the weightlifting as my job and I do the pageants as a hobby alongside it.
“It’s just a bit of fun – it gives me something else to think about and focus on.
“You can get too wrapped up in one thing and things can get a bit stressful, so it’s a nice release.”
A talented gymnast as a child, Davies was at university training to be a PE teacher when she met her boyfriend Jack Oliver around seven years ago.
A weightlifter himself , Oliver appeared at the London Olympics and encouraged his girlfriend to take up the sport.
She soon discovered that she had a natural talent for it and has since gone on to compete at World and European Championships, as well as finishing a creditable seventh at the last Commonwealth Games in Glasgow
“I started weight lifting by chance really,” said Davies.
“I met my boyfriend Jack at university and he had been weightlifting since he was 14.
“He competed at London in 2012 and came 10th.
“I just thought I would give it a try really, to see what it was all about and understand what he did as a hobby. So I tried it and it turned out that I was quite good at it. I stuck at it and so here I am six years later going to my second Commonwealth Games, which is quite surreal actually.
“I did not know anything about weightlifting until I met Jack.
“I was a gymnast when I was younger and trained at the Garstang School of Gymnastics.
“I managed to get to the national finals, but I think the age that you have to be good at gymnastics takes quite a lot of mental strength from such a young athlete.
“I stopped doing that at the age of 14 , but I think on reflection my gymnastics has helped my weightlifting.
“To expect a 12-year-old to understand what it takes to be able to compete at elite level takes quite a lot, whereas now, it has certainly stood me in good stead – the discipline as well.
“I also think that my gymnastics background helped me move into all the right positions in my weightlifting.
“But I was lucky that at the time my boyfriend Jack and my friend Zoe Smith were two of the best lifters in the country
“They basically took my first session, so it certainly helped having those kind of people around me.”
Despite being a relative newcomer to the sport, Davies will certainly be one of the favourites to win gold at the Commonwealths.
In December last year, she finished sixth at the World Championships in Anaheim, USA – securing the best result by a British weightlifter for 15 years since Michaela Breeze came fifth in 2002.
Competing in the 63kg class, Davies lifted 209kg and although she is competing at the slightly higher weight category of 69kg in Australia, she is still confident of success.
“It’s crazy to think how far I have come when you think I did not know anything about weightlifting six or seven years ago,” said Davies, whose mum Stef and dad Tony will be travelling Down Under to watch their daughter.
“Now I am in a position where I will be going to my second Commonwealth Games – it still feels surreal.
“The things I have achieved recently have given me a massive amount of confidence.
“I have achieved things that people haven’t achieved in a long time – if not ever.
“Coming sixth at the World Championships at the back end of last year is the best finish we in Great Britain have had in 15 years.
“So I can’t really sniff at that.
“I think after what I achieved there means I am definitely up there as one of the contenders.
“I am actually competing in a slightly different weight class at the Commonwealths to what I did at the worlds, but there should be a medal on the cards.
“It’s just a case of putting six weeks of hard graft in now to see what colour medal that could be.”
While this year’s Commonwealth Games are her priority at the moment, Davies admitted her dream is compete at the Tokyo Olympics in two years’ time.
Injured when selection took place for Rio in 2016, Davies is hoping that a trip to the Far East will eventually be her destiny.
“The Olympics is the pinnacle of any sporting career” said Davies, who attended Bilsborrow John Cross C of E Primary School.
“I just missed out on Rio, I was carrying an injury unfortunately, but I definitely have my eyes firmly focused on Tokyo in 2020.
“We have never had a female medal in the weightlifting at an Olympic Games, so it would be great if I could tuck myself in the history books and bring home a medal from Japan.”