Weightlifting guide - London 2012 Olympic Games

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Your complete guide to weightlifting ahead of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

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Converted: The world's buffest bodies lift the equivalent weight of a medium-sized Jersey cow for our entertainment.

Confused: Laughable strongman nonsense for preening bulk-powder fiends.

Weightlifting - The essential guide

© Getty Images

Street cred: Weightlifters are great to have around in a variety of situations, whether you’re on the mean streets or trying to shift a settee.

Who’s good? Chinese beefcakes obliterated the opposition in Beijing and will be imposing again at London 2012. Iran, Russia and Kazakhstan are also strong, literally.

Glory-hunting potential: Britain’s solitary weightlifting gold was won in 1896 but there are tentative medal hopes at London 2012 for Scotland’s Peter Kirkbride and 17-year-old Zoe Smith, ‘The strongest schoolgirl in Britain’.

The basics: Olympians must perform two types of lift. One is the ‘clean and jerk’, where the barbell is thrust first to the chest and then above the head. The other is the ‘snatch’, where the weight is lifted above the head in one seamless movement.

Athlete to watch: You won’t be able to miss US weightlifter Holley Mangold, who at 23 stone is one of the burlier female athletes aiming to qualify for London 2012.

Almost useless fact: The perception that all weightlifters are huge is wrong; the lighter male athletes in the Olympics weigh under nine stone.

Not be confused with: Powerlifting, which involves squats and bench presses and features in the Paralympic Games.

Do say: ‘A simple but effective test of brute strength that boils sporting competition down to its very essence.'

Don't say: ‘I've seen more refined pick-up techniques in Spearmint Rhino.'

British Olympic hopeful - Zoe Smith

What would your advice be to someone taking up your career?

Don't let the negative body image thing put you off - it’s not true, it's a great form of exercise. And yes it's a male dominated sport... you get banter from the guys but it’s harmless.

If the monarchy suddenly disbanded, which song would you want played at your gold-medal ceremony instead of the national anthem?

‘All the Small Things’ by Blink 182.

What's your favourite London spot?

Camden town. I love all the little vintage shops.

Do you have any superstitions or mental tricks?

Listening to ‘All the Small Things’ by Blink 182 before I lift.

What physical aspect of yourself are you most proud of?

My squatting bum, though I don't like the fact that the muscles on my shoulders are getting bigger.

What will be unique about a London Olympics?

It’s going to be really special because it will be in my home borough - I grew up in Greenwich - so to have the Olympics there will be an amazing experience.

What is the most common misconception about your sport?

That the female athletes are all really massive and look like men.

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