Weightlifting: Leeds’s own Ben Watson follows the trend to success

Ben Watson.
Ben Watson.
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Leeds-based Ben Watson only began weightlifting because it was bizarrely the in-vogue thing at his Oxfordshire school.

He was also one of the last to give it a try.

Good job he did, Watson admitting that he is now “the last one standing” as he targets a dream place at the London 2012 Olympics.

Watson, 22, is 18 months into life as a full-time weightlifter, based at the sport’s national headquarters in Headingley.

Indeed, such is the frequency with which Watson is based in Leeds, his Christmas return to his Didcot home has been something of a rarity.

The simple reason is the lure of next year’s Olympics, which Watson still hopes to qualify for despite admitting that 2011 has been a frustrating year blighted by a knee injury.


However, that setback is now behind him and the adopted Leeds lad still hopes to seal a remarkable rise in the sport – 10 years on from taking it up after simply following a trend adopted by his mates.

“I’ve probably not had the best year ever,” Watson told LS1. “But it’s not for the lack of trying – I had quite a few problems with my knee.

“I had surgery last month, but now it feels like it’s getting back to how it should be and I’m looking forward to training again in the new year.

“I still feel like I could go to the Olympics otherwise I wouldn’t bother being in Leeds.

“Realistically, I would need to have solid training from now up until hopefully sealing qualification – that’s the challenge.

“You’ve got to give it a go as you don’t get this opportunity very often.”

Watson’s sporting life actually began as a footballer – the “beautiful game” still played casually by younger brother Matt, 18.

But then came the transition to weightlifting – thanks to Watson’s form tutor.

“When I started secondary school my form tutor ran the weightlifting at school,” explained Watson.

“I was often playing football but my friends were all weightlifting and towards the end of the year I went along to a weightlifting club with them.

“It seemed like everyone was doing it so I just wanted to see what the deal was.

“it just went from there and now I am the last one standing I guess!

“If I get to the Olympics it would be mad and amazing.

“It’s a massively-exciting prospect –- I get excited just mentioning it.

“We went down to the Olympic Park the other week and went to the test centre for weightlifting.

“It was exciting and now everyone just wants it even more.

“Everyone is training even harder now and you just have to see who will get there in the end.”

Watson has given himself the best possible chance by relocating to Leeds where he shares a house in Headingley with four other weightlifting Olympic hopefuls – Jack Oliver, Ali Jawad, Hannah Powell and “Britain’s strongest schoolgirl” Zoe Smith.

A southerner by birth he may be but Watson admits that he is loving life in Leeds where there is certainly much more to do than in his home town of Didcot.

“I like it a lot and it’s probably better than being at home!” laughed Watson.

“I live in Didcot in Oxfordshire which most people might have heard about for the power station or the train station when passing through.

“It’s all right but it’s just a town and Leeds is a great city.”

Not that Watson has, as yet, been influenced to become a follower of the city’s football team with the black and white stripes of Newcastle United the shirt closest to his heart.

Explaining his affiliation with the Magpies, Watson said: “I’m not from there, but when I was younger and watching football Alan Shearer was the man.

“After watching Euro 96 I wanted to support a team and I ended up supporting Newcastle – it’s never a dull moment.

“I went to a few matches with Jack Oliver, who also supports them, last season but we’ve not been to any games this season yet as we have been concentrating on training.”

Any chance of switching allegiances to Leeds? Seemingly not.

“I don’t think so,” laughed Watson. “They’ve enough fans.”

As will Watson should he make the grade at London 2012.

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