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Weightlifting: British champion Stephanie Owens takes sport by storm after hammer switch

FORMER top hammer thrower Steph Owens has left the world of field athletics behind to become a champion weightlifter.

The 19-year-old came second at the Welsh Senior Championships in March just a week after taking up the sport before clinching the British Junior title in April.

Now she says she may never return to the event which made her name in athletics.

Owens, who is also a personal trainer and a model, has her sights set on the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 and is working and training almost 100 hours a week to achieve her dream.

Buckley-born Owens fell into the sport by accident. She originally opted to take a break from the hammer during the winter as she tried to get her personal training qualifications but began powerlifting to maintain her strength.

But an injury forced her to see her physiotherapist in Rhos-on-Sea who recommended she ditch powerlifting for weightlifting, as it was a recognised Olympic sport.

“I explained to him that I had a fear of one particular move, the snatch (where the weight is lifted in one movement),” said Owens.

“But he told me I’d get over that and put me in touch with an old friend of his, Ray Williams.

“He is the top weightlifting coach in Wales and he came to Sandycroft and offered to train me. He also invited me to the Welsh Senior Championships the next week to watch the competition.

“I have never been much of a watcher so I entered instead and won it. I still have problems with the snatch, as I have a fear with the weight over my head, but I am working on that.”

After the Welsh Seniors Owens went to the Small Nations of Europe Championships in Limassol, Cyprus and secured 10th place and the best female lifter award.

“Ray told me that had I got into the sport a couple of months earlier I would definitely have been on the plane to Delhi for this year’s Commonwealths,” said Owens.

“London 2012 is not likely as there are a hugely limited number of spaces on the team and I still have a long way to go to improve my weight.”

But her new-found love for weightlifting comes at a price. Steph is currently working as a personal trainer at Sandycroft Athlete Performance Centre. She begins work at 7am and does a four-hour shift before driving to Holyhead to begin training at 12.30pm with Williams, returning to Sandycroft at 5pm for a five-and-a-half hour shift.

She also has to fit in modelling commitments to make ends meet and pay for the training and travel.

“I could try to do it on my own and settle for second place but that is not in my nature,” she said.

“I want to train with the best in Wales and become the best in Wales and that is why I make the sacrifice.

“It is ridiculous but it is what I have to do to be the best at a sport I now love.

“Luckily my modelling is mostly fitness and the weightlifting keeps me in shape so I keep getting work.”

Steph is hoping for some support as she bids for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. If you would like to sponsor her contact her on 07763374217.