By Josh Graham at the NEC, Birmingham
BEAUTY queen turned weightlifter Sarah Davies said she had learned her lesson after returning from a three-month ban for an “unacceptable” discriminatory comment aimed at a teammate to win Commonwealth Games gold.
Davies, a former Miss Leeds, survived a medical scare to smash the Games record with 229kg to take women’s 71kg glory in Birmingham but it has been an ugly year for the 29-year-old who described her enforced deselection in the build-up as a “tough time”.
Davies was sanctioned by British Weightlifting in April, forced to apologise to the victim, sent to diversity training and given a final warning for 12 months after admitting to making comments which she termed “unacceptable” in her apology post on social media where she added that she was “deeply remorseful”.
Davies, who came fifth at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, then resigned from her position as chair of the International Weightlifting Federation’s Athletes Commission.
“It's been a tough period but I've learnt from it,” said Davies, who is one of over 1,100 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing them to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.
“I educated myself, moved forward and kept training. It has been tough but I learnt my lesson.
“We move forward and we go from there. I used [the time off] to train for this, there were no domestic competitions during that period.”
Despite the heavily disrupted build-up, Davies proved to be in a class of her own at Birmingham’s NEC, finishing 15kg clear of her closest challenger, Canada’s Alexis Ashworth.
The only person that looked like beating her was herself after she snatched a new personal best of 103kg to lead at the halfway mark.
But that almost materialised after she failed with her first attempt to clean and jerk 126kg, as Davis revealed she blacked out and temporarily lost vision with the doctor being called on stage.
However, she recovered and revealed “the lion inside her” came out to help her land the second attempt to secure the win.
When asked about her nervy finish, Davies said: “I just thought I would make it a bit more of a crowd-pleaser. The first one I was ready to go, I just misjudged it a little bit, it pulled me backwards and as that happens, it just sits a bit heavier on the windpipe.
“The sound reverberated around the room, I lost vision for a little while but it’s one of those things that happens to some lifters and not others but I’m used to it.
“It is just about getting deep breaths in when that happens, I’m used to it happening in training. You just have to take your time before you reset and go again.
“The lion in me came out to fight on that one, that's for sure. I wasn’t leaving it down to the third attempt so I just dug in for that second one. I knew it was for glory and it mattered.”
Davies’ overriding emotion was relief after upgrading her silver from the Gold Coast in 2018 and was delighted to end her curse of perennially picking up second place having also finished as runner-up in the 2021 world and European championships.
She added: “It was relief more than anything. It's hard when you know it is in the bag and all you have to do is put a score on the board.
“The tables are turning, we are ready now. A lot of second places but we came here for one job and one job only and that was to bring home the gold. The strike of 'Sarah takes silver’ is finally over.”
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