By William James
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's 18-year-old Zoe Smith is six days away from her Olympic debut, and she can still remember how to lift weights.
For her, that is already an improvement on the run-up to her performance at the New Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games.
"Before Delhi I just kind of fell apart, I forgot how to lift weights one week and just started crying on the platform," Smith said in an interview on Tuesday.
"That's silly, thinking about it now."
A bronze medal in Delhi demonstrated her physical potential. Smith says with the help of sports psychologist Dave Readle, her mind is now also better prepared to take to the weightlifting platform on Monday.
"Speaking to me you wouldn't guess, but I have been plagued with doubt about my own abilities. But he (Readle) has helped me get through that," Smith said.
"I started working with Dave just over a year ago now and in that time I've mentally come a long way, as well as physically."
Part of that preparation involves missing Friday's Olympic opening ceremony to save her body from the strains of the athletes' slow parade though the stadium and to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the magnitude of the occasion.
The fiercely ambitious Smith is realistic about the gulf between her and the Olympic podium, targeting a performance that could place her sixth in the field of 22 athletes.
"People have been hanging a medal around my neck for the Olympic Games (since) before I'd even qualified saying 'Yeah, yeah, you'll get a gold medal'," Smith said.
"But I know for a fact that's incorrect. The girl that's ranked top of the field is lifting in total about 20 kilos more than me, so it's not something I can just change overnight."
Smith highlights Belarus's Natassia Novikava, whom she describes as an "amazing competitor", as a contender to take gold in the 58-kilogram weight division.
If Smith can match her personal bests in the two styles of lifts - the single movement 'snatch', and the two-stage 'clean and jerk' - she can lift a combined 217.5kg. Novikava qualified for the games with a total of 240kg.
The rest of the field for London is also strong. Athletes from North Korea, Thailand and Taipei lead the qualifying weights, and China will look to build on a dominant performance in the womens' event at the 2008 Beijing Games.
That Smith won't be up there challenging for medals is clearly a sore point, and while she is always quick to check her impatience, the ambition to succeed in the sport after the London Olympics is clear.
"At times I've just been really frustrated with myself thinking 'Why can't I just be that good now?' But obviously it's not as easy as that," she said.
"Weightlifters peak around their early thirties and late twenties. In 2024 I'll be thirty - god, I can't imagine me being thirty - I really hope to be a world beater by then."
(Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)