Weightlifter Sarah Davies keen to be a role model in sport and beauty pageantry

If you're familiar with the North-West beauty pageantry scene, you may recognise her as Miss West Yorkshire 2018, and the former Miss Leeds.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 27th October 2018, 7:00 am
Leeds' Sarah Davies on her way to the silver medal in the  women's 69kg weightlifting final at the Commonwealth Games earlier this year.
Leeds' Sarah Davies on her way to the silver medal in the women's 69kg weightlifting final at the Commonwealth Games earlier this year.

And if sport is more your thing, you might remember her lifting her way to Commonwealth Games silver this summer on Australia’s Gold Coast.

Whether wearing a medal or a sash, 26-year-old Sarah Davies isn’t planning on choosing one of her passions over the other any time soon. Strong is beautiful, she says, and a first Olympic Games appearance is in her sights.

“I started lifting in September 2011,” Davies said, remembering a time when lifting was just a hobby picked up while training as a PE teacher in Leeds.

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Leeds' Sarah Davies celebrates during her weightlifting final at the Commonwealth Games earlier this year.

“The pageants started in the following March, so there was about six months’ difference.

“I think the two, they kind of work together in a weird sort of way because they contradict each other, it’s a bit of an oxymoron.

“It puts me in a better position as a role model to be having this healthy athletic body as opposed to the stereotype people expect from pageants.

“When it comes to the weightlifting, it makes it easier to pick up sponsorship because you offer something different.”

Leeds' Sarah Davies on the podium at the Commonwealth Games earlier this year.

The sponsorship advantage is one that she would rather not need, but since funding to weightlifting was cut after the Rio 2016 Olympics, she has had to do whatever she can to fund her own sporting ambitions.

She added: “If I was doing it for the money, I’d be in the wrong sport. You just find a way, don’t you?

“I’m fortunate enough to have a private sponsor, Pristine Condition, who I do a little bit of work with and they have helped me out with funding for the World Championships.

“I’ve been really fortunate with this competition, but going forwards it’s going to be a lot more crowdfunding and things like that to try and get sorted.”

Her ticket to Turkmenistan is booked, and following her Commonwealth performance in Australia, the World Championships present a challenge she is eager to rise to.

Davies added: “I was going with the expectation of a medal, maybe bronze with an outside shot at silver.

“But then I had the silver and a very close shot at gold, which I never expected in that weight class. It took a little while to come back down to earth after that!”

Entering that tournament in the 69kg weight category, she will return to her preferred class of 64kg next month in Ashgabat.

She could be forgiven for fancying her chances of a medal, but Davies insists that this is just the first step in her journey to Tokyo 2020.

“With it being the start of Olympic qualification it’s a case of going and just getting the best total that I can to really set the ball rolling,” said Davies.

“Getting a nice steady one in to start, trying to get as big a total as possible and just working from there really. The Olympics is a much longer term goal.”

Olympic qualification would boost her profile to get across the message she wants to pass on to other women and girls.

While you might imagine she would stick out like a thumb sore from the strain of supporting a 128kg barbell – her best Commonwealth lift – pageantry is more diverse than you would think, and Davies is happy to be a figurehead for this progress.

“There’s a lot more diversity now within pageants to what there used to be,” she said.

“You don’t have to be a six-foot tall blonde skinny supermodel anymore, because obviously I’m not that!

“It’s more about being a role model to other women and young girls.

“A lot of stuff in the media now is people wanting this Kim Kardashian body with the big bum and stuff, but you’re not going to get that if you don’t train, and train right.

“I get a lot of the pageant girls asking questions about how to train their bodies. It’s quite cool to see that because traditionally, they would just not eat and get really skinny from eating nothing.”

Unlike pageantry, weightlifting has conventionally been something of a boys’ club. That was certainly the case when Davies loaded her first barbell seven years ago.

It is still true in many parts of the world. But in the UK, Davies says the split is almost 50/50 and at the top level, it is the women leading the way.

She added: “When I started lifting, you could turn up to a National Championships and win a medal just because there were no other women there.

“There were maybe three women in your weight class if you were lucky.

“Now, it’s a battle to qualify and it’s a battle for those medals, which is really cool to see.

“There is a shift coming. Since Crossfit took off and got quite big, there’s been more women come into weightlifting and actually at the top end, the women in Britain are doing better than the men.”

Her last World Championships saw her claim the best individual British result for 15 years, something she admitted felt like a dream.

Now, being a world-class athlete by day and a beauty queen by night is just her standard routine.

Self-deprecating and jovial, she wears the crown well – and you wouldn’t bet against her adding more silverware to her collection.