Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School is no stranger to student success, with many well-documented examples of pupils going on to achieve their goals in spectacular style.
As a school, we are committed to supporting young people in all their endeavours, nurturing the skills and attitudes needed to succeed at the highest level, across a comprehensive range of industries and disciplines.
Since leaving our Sixth Form in 2013, Cat Smith has gone on to compete in multiple national and international powerlifting competitions, recently setting a new Junior world record for the deadlift in her -57kg weight class.
We caught up with Cat to discuss her incredible journey in greater detail, as she prepares to move up and compete as a senior lifter.
- What attracted you to powerlifting and how did it develop into a serious passion?
I have always been very active, taking part in athletics during my time at school. After leaving Bishop Vesey’s to join Loughborough University I wanted to find a new direction, which is when I was introduced to powerlifting and the training involved. Immediately I knew it was right for me, as I love the sense of achievement that comes with pushing myself and seeing the progress I’ve made over time. When you find that enjoyment in a sport it ends up working as motivation, which has encouraged me to keep training and start competing at an elite level.
- How did that step from casual training to elite level powerlifting come about?
After training for some weeks, I really started getting a taste for it, and one of my friends then convinced me to take part in the first student championships. During the competition I lifted well, which then prompted me to look at the requirements for the national championships, before progressing into international teams and competitions. Comparing my own performance to the other competitors, I knew there was a serious opportunity for me to take this further and compete at the highest level.
- What is the training regime like in the build-up to an event?
Since I started competing, the training has naturally become a lot more serious, which is why I now have a coach and nutritionist to help me stay at the top of my game. When I’m into the final week before a competition, I’ll usually just focus on heavy single work instead of doing lots of squats and pressing. The last couple of days are for final preparation, with a lot of my focus on warming up and making weight, depending on if I am competing as a 52kg or 57kg lifter.
- For those who may not be familiar with the sport, how is powerlifting scored and what is it like competing against the world’s best athletes?
There are three individual events – the bench press, deadlift and squat. You have three attempts at each event, then your best lift for each is added together to give you a total. When it comes to competition time, there is a lot of strategy involved in terms of choosing when to go heavy and when to play it safe, as competitors will focus on setting themselves up in a good position for their strongest event. It can get pretty tense outside the weigh-in room between the athletes, but it always makes for a close, well-contested battle.
- What is the story behind your Junior world record deadlift?
At the time, the world record was 176.5kg for deadlift and I needed to beat it by 500g in an international competition to set a new one. In the run-up to the 2018 World Championships I did beat the score, but I needed to repeat this on the international stage for it to officially count as a new world record. I went into the World Championships in Canada knowing I had the ability to break the record, but when you are competing in a high-profile international competition it can sometimes be difficult to execute the perfect lift. Fortunately, I managed to deadlift 177kg and set a new world record before re-breaking it with a 177.5kg lift at the European Championships in Lithuania.
- How has Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School helped you in your journey?
During my time at the Sixth Form I was surrounded by lots of talented sportsmen and women and that really motivated the competitive spirit inside of me. I was a house captain and had experience organising different sporting events, so I’ve taken that discipline and drive into powerlifting and my training to become a teacher.
- What advice would you give to students looking to become an elite level athlete?
It’s crucial that you find something you enjoy, as it’s that passion and love for the sport that will drive you forward and help you reach the elite level. If you are serious about making it to the very top, it’s important to spend time preparing in order to give yourself the best chance of succeeding. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle balance is key and having other interests and hobbies outside of sports will give you a much-needed escape when you’re not training or competing.
- Finally, what are your goals for the future?
Now I am counted as a senior lifter, one of my biggest priorities is to continue achieving at a more competitive level. One of my lifelong goals is to eventually deadlift 200kg and that’s something I am constantly working towards. My main goal overall is to continue powerlifting as a lifelong activity and carry on being involved in the sport even as my lifestyle develops and changes. I am currently training to become an international powerlifting referee and I’m hoping my experiences will allow me to pave the way for grass roots powerlifting.