When Grace Cumming tells people that she is a weightlifter, most people laugh.
However, the diminutive 17-year-old’s abilities are far from a joke, having just won gold at secondary school nationals for the second year running.
Grace took out the U53kg class, recording three personal best lifts including a 54kg clean and jerk.
“I’d been sitting at about a 40kg clean and jerk and then on the day it just flipped, and I manage to do pretty well.”
The Nelson College for Girls student went back-to-back despite limited preparation.
“I had only been training for five weeks for that competition, and before that I had taken a huge break and I was not at my best whatsoever.”
She says she surprised herself with her performance.
“I think the adrenaline carried me through more than anything, I was just so amped up, on the platform I couldn’t hear anything.”
Grace has only been involved in the sport for two years, having taken it up for strength training to improve her volleyball game.
“I started it so I could jump higher because I’m such a small person, but I got hooked. People told me I couldn’t do it because I was too small but I’m super stubborn, so I kept at it and here I am.”
She says she is driven by the doubters.
“That’s probably one of my favorite things, to tell people I’m a weightlifter and they say ‘seriously?’ Some of them think I’m joking.”
She says, due to her slight build, people often scoff at her chosen sport. “Last year when I got called up at the NCG prizegiving probably 90 per cent of the crowd started laughing.”
However, she says it simply motivates her to lift even heavier weights.
“It feels good to prove that I can actually do it and when I tell them my weights that surprises them even more.”
She says she loves the pressure of a big lift. “It’s literally just you, you’ve got a big crowd of people in front of you and judges watching you, it all comes down to what you can do on the day.”