Sarah Davies - the Bilsborrow weightlifter heading to the Commonwealth Games
PUBLISHED: 00:00 27 February 2018
Commonwealth Games hopeful Sarah Davies is a top weightlifter but there's a softer side to this Lancashire lass. Roger Borrell reports
Think of female weightlifters and it’s hard not to conjure up an image of large ladies of Eastern European origin cracking walnuts with their eyelids.
That’s probably why if you saw Lancashire lass Sarah Davies in the street you would never dream she would be capable of lifting something that weighs the equivalent of a Welsh dresser above her well-coiffured head.
Not only can she do that – she does it well enough to have been selected to take part in her second Commonwealth Games. During March she and her GB teammates will fly out to Australia’s Gold Coast ready for the opening ceremony on April 4 and the start of the weightlifting competition four days later, her mind firmly set on a medal.
But what makes her really stand out from the crowd is the fact that 25-year-old Sarah is also a successful contestant in beauty pageants, proving that beauty and brute strength can go hand in hand.
She entered the Miss Leeds competition in 2012 as a dare and came away with the title and that meant she qualified for the Miss England final. While she didn’t win, it did giver her a taste for these events and she has done well in several high-profile contests.
‘I know what people say about these pageants but they are very different to the beauty contests of the 70s and 80s,’ says Sarah, who grew up in Bilsborrow, a village seven miles north of Preston. ‘Anyone who thinks they are sexist should go along and experience what they are like.
‘It isn’t all about being a size zero and just parading around in a bikini. These days contestants have to be interviewed and show they have a wide range of interests. There is also a sports and fitness round where you are expected to show that you are healthy in mind and body.
‘They expect us to be well-rounded individuals, the sort of people you wouldn’t mind your daughter looking up to. I like to think I can be a role model for young girls who may be worried about body image or think that they aren’t up to different sports.
‘Since winning my first title I have tried to make a difference – during that time I have raised more than £3,000 for charity. And I want to show that to be a weightlifter you don’t have to look like Helga the Brute!’
Sarah is currently living in Leeds, where she went to university and qualified as a teacher, with Jack Oliver, another successful weightlifter who was at the last Olympics. He will also be on the plane with her to Australia.
‘The beauty pageants will take a back set for now,’ says Sarah. ‘But I will be back because it gives me another interest, a kick up the bum to do something else. It is easy to become self-absorbed, but if I didn’t do the pageants Jack and I would just talk weightlifting all the time!’
Sarah has always been sports mad, starring as a national level gymnast until the age of 15 and she also played golf for the county. Her brother is also a golf pro.
While her parents, an accountant and a teacher, were not particularly sporty, she had a grandmother who played hockey and a grandfather who was a bodybuilder.
‘I’ll always be grateful to my parents for driving me around the country to gymnastics competitions,’ says Sarah, who spent many hours in the gym at Garstang High.
‘While other friends were going out clubbing, I was preparing for the next gymnastics or watching the telly. That is still the case now I’m a weightlifter – New Year’s Eve saw me sat at home playing board games. There have been a lot of sacrifices, but they’ll all have been worth it if we come back with medals.’
There’s a steely edge to Sarah that makes you think that’s well within her grasp. And the next step? ‘Tokyo 2020, of course! That’s the ultimate goal and by then I should be in my prime.’
Weigh in for Sarah
While Sarah is desperate the fly the flag for Lancashire at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, she is going to have to do it the hard way. UK Sport axed its funding for the discipline, leaving competitors to pay their way for the training cycle in the run up to the games.
‘I don’t do this for the money but it is difficult,’ says Sarah. ‘Jack and I have started up our own coaching business so we are just about able to pay the bills.’ Any potential sponsors can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org