Didcot's Ben Watson, who has strong hopes of challenging for a medal at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, says that he owes his success in weightlifting to the school which first introduced him to the sport.
Watson first took up weightlifting as a pupil at St Birinus School in Didcot, sparking a passion which could lead him to this year’s Commonwealth Games.
“I started school here in 2001 and my form tutor was the guy who was the weightlifting coach, Mr Karlsson,” said Watson.
“After a while playing football, my friends were still doing weightlifting, so I decided to join them.
“I started weightlifting when I was 11 at school and I’m still going now.”
Watson now works at the school, helping to coach the weightlifting club and the presence of an international weightlifter has further increased the popularity of the sport.
“We find it very easy to attract people to the sport,” said coach Philip Karlsson.
“We actually have too many weightlifters at the moment, so we’re having to put in place a strict talent identification process.
“The most we can really have at any one time is 15 so we do have to turn people away sometimes, unfortunately.”
Started in the 1970s by Karlsson, the weightlifting club quickly proved a success and has since gone from strength to strength.
“As a sport I think it’s very well suited to schools,” said Karlsson.
“Of course you need the space and the equipment but we’ve had very good support from the school down the years.”
That support has brought incredible levels of success to the weightlifting club, which has produced at least one national champion at schools level every year since 1993.
“As a club we’ve had many weightlifters through to international level, but none of Ben’s standard,” he added.
“We’re doing really well and it’s popular with the boys.”
Expect that popularity to soar even further if Watson can bring home a medal from Glasgow in July.