FOR most teenage girls, the usually masculine world of powerlifting would not rank highly on their lists of sports to take up.
This too was the case for East Bergholt High School pupil Zoe Newson.
More content with following football and her brother Sam at Needham Market, the youngster had no interest in the sport, despite encouragement from friends and coaches alike.
However, this finally changed as Suffolk Spartans coach Neil Thomas finally convinced Newson to take up powerlifting, believing he could turn her dwarfism into an advantage.
“When I was at school, one of my old coaches said that because of my height, I’d be good at power lifting because my arms are quite short,” said Newson.
“I didn’t want to do it at first but before long I was doing well and really enjoyed it, which was surprising.”
Thomas’ judgement was proved right as since taking up the sport competitively in 2008, Newson has not looked back, making rapid progress.
Her obvious potential was turned into medals the following year, claiming silver in both the junior and senior events at the IWAS World Games in India, lifting 80kg, becoming the only British female to achieve that landmark.
In 2010, Newson broke the European junior record, before claiming the junior title at the prestigious IPC World Powerlifting Championships in Kuala Lumpur, second only in importance to the Paralympics.
Last year, she won the IWAS Junior World Games in Dubai, set a new European junior record at the British finals and has this year gone on to break her own record, lifting 88kg in Cardiff in IPC UK Invitational tournament.
The 19-year-old’s achievements have seen her rise to fifth in the world rankings and have a genuine chance of making the Great Britain squad for this summer’s Paralympic Games, needing only to be within the top six by the end of March.
However, despite revealing an excitement at the prospect of representing her country in London this summer, Newson, who is currently the only Great Britain powerlifter to be in an automatic qualification place, does not want to get carried away.
“It would be really good to be able to represent Great Britain at the Paralympics and I am really hopeful of getting there,” she said.
“It would be my first Paralympic Games and that is very exciting.
“For me it would be all about the experience of being there and with it being in London would be awesome.
“However, at the moment I’m trying not to think about it too much, I can start dreaming once I have qualified.”
Newson’s dream of clinching one of 10 spots in the Great Britain squad — one athlete per bodyweight, 10 men, 10 women — could soon be realised as she heads out to Dubai on February 21 to compete in the Fazaa International Powerlifting Competition in the under-40kg category, the last chance to cement her place within the top six world rankings.
If Newson can avoid being out-lifted by anyone currently below her in the world rankings, her passage to the Paralympic Games will be all but guaranteed.
Louise Pennell, Newson’s coach at the Suffolk Spartans, who has overseen the 19-year-old’s meteoric rise from newcomer to a Paralympic hopeful, spoke of the progress of the East Bergolt youngster as she stands on the brink of representing her country at the world’s biggest sporting speactacle.
“It is supposed to take seven or eight years to get to what Zoe is achieving at the moment,” she said. “As long as she does well in Dubai she should be okay.
“Zoe is in the right spot for qualification and we can’t see anyone else who could knock her down the rankings that we know about.
“She needs to keep focused but nothing fazes her at the moment, so fingers crossed everything goes well.”
If Newson was to qualify for the Games, which commence on August 29, Pennell believes there is a realistic prospect of seeing Newson on the medal podium at the Excel Centre.
“It would be fantastic for her to be able to get a bronze medal and that is certainly within her reach,” she added.
“If she does that then it will be what her hard work deserves.”