Weightlifter Deborah Lovely, 25, won three silver medals at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002 and then went on to win the gold at Melbourne in 2006. Having come 12th in her class at the Athens Olympics in 2004 as Australia's sole female weightlifter, she is now heading to Beijing to once again represent the nation on the Olympic stage and hopefully break a few Australian records. She speaks about her weightlifting and her Christian faith... 

Sport has always been an important part of your life, hasn’t it?
“Yeah. I started off in Little Athletics when I was about six or seven years old - that’s sort of how my career started. I started training for throwing events a little later on - when I was about 12, 13 or 14 - and got picked to go over to Holland to the ‘99 inaugural World Youth Championships and that’s where I got my first taste of international success: I came third in the world. Then, when I came back, I took up weightlifting so I could get stronger and be a better discus thrower and hammer thrower. And that’s how it started. So, yes, pretty much I’ve been doing sport for as long as I can remember.”

Deb Lovely

THAT WINNING FEELING: Deborah Lovely celebrates after winning gold at the Commonwealth Games in  Melbourne in 2006.


"I know that I’m in good form and the trials were just a bit of an indicator of how much I can lift...If I get close to a 150 kilo clean and jerk that would be really impressive, I’d be really happy about that.”

What was it that led you to stay in weightlifting?
“Well, as I started to get better and better, I actually then got selected to go to the Commonwealth Games in 2002 for the weightlifting...so it was sort of that point that I decided to continue on with the weightlifting and see how far I could go. And when I came back with three silver medals from Manchester in 2002, that’s when I sort of realised that I probably had a bit of a talent for it and if I kept on going, I could get better and better.”

I understand that when you compete at Beijing this year that you’ll be the first Australian woman to have complete twice in weightlifting at the Olympics. 
“Yeah, that’s right, because women’s weightlifting has actually only been around since Sydney 2000 - that was the first one for women, so that pretty much means I’ll be the first one to go to two. We had the full team at the Sydney Olympics but in Athens we actually only had one female and one male to represent Australia...and again, there’s only one male and one female going to the Olympics (this year).”

You came 12th in Athens. What’s your aim for this Olympics?
“This time around I’m in a heavier weight class - so I don’t have to starve for a month before I go - so, being in the heavier one, I’m hoping to break all of the Australian records again. I know that I’m in good form and the trials were just a bit of an indicator of how much I can lift...If I get close to a 150 kilo clean and jerk that would be really impressive, I’d be really happy about that.”

What does preparation involve for you in the lead-up to the Olympics?
“The competition for the selection trials was the most intense competition I’ve ever been in - it was more intense than the Olympic Games when I competed. So the selection trials take a lot out of you and for quite a few weeks prior to the trials I was really going over in my mind how I’d have to mentally prepare myself to compete. That was pretty much it - being really positive in the way I thought about the competition and (practising) some visualisation; just thinking about lifting weights that I’ve never even attempted but just imagining that I could actually do it. So there’s a lot of mental preparation - psychological preparation - that’s before both the trials and the Olympics competition. Physically the training, for me, is five times a week. It’s quite heavy loading stuff - I actually calculated once that I’d probably lift anywhere between 10 and 20 tonnes every day of training...It’s probably only for about two hours a day because being in the heavier weight class, I’ve actually found that it takes me a lot longer to recover from the training sessions than in the lighter weight class. So that’s an advantage of being in the heavier weight class - although it takes a lot more effort being in the heavier weight class because your lifting a lot more weight each time, you do get a little bit more time to recover.”

At this elite level, what is it that drives you as an athlete? Is it the chance of a medal at the end? Is it the chance to do your personal best? 
“I don’t realise that things drive me until I get to a point where people are saying ‘Deborah, are you going to give it a rest now?’ After I won the Commonwealth Games people were saying ‘Oh, you’re finishing now’ and I thought, ‘No, I’m not’. The moment people start talking like that, I sort of started to rethink and reconsider why I was doing it and how much I want to continue on with the sport. I suppose it is the drive of doing my best and that drive is really putting in more effort and being able to get a really good (result). I know the harder I train, the better my competitions are going to be and the more I’m going to lift. I suppose, really, a big thing that kept me going after the Commonwealth Games (is that) I’m not even in my prime yet - for a weightlifter, 26 to 30 is your physical peak. So it was more being able to move up to the next weight class and give myself new goals. I got over...just lifting the same sort of weight so what really pushed me a little bit more was being able to move into the next weight class, put on a little bit more weight and really start to move some big weights. And I get a lot of chances to talk around the place, going along to schools and church groups...and I suppose that kind of drives me as well: when I see the kids really responding well and going, ‘That’s amazing, I could be really good too if I really try’. The kids getting encouragement also gives me a bit of encouragement. It kind of all feeds into it.”

How does your faith as a Christian feed into that?
“It’s a really big part. I suppose it started off with - my parents are Christian - being brought up in a Christian home which just really encouraged me to do my best no matter what’s going on; don’t worry about what other people say and, if you know you’re doing the right thing, then just keep going. I suppose it’s that drive to do my best, not just for me...and the better that I do, the more people I see and the more I can tell other people about my faith. Which is a really big driver for me. When I think God doesn’t want me to do it any more, that’s when it going to be time to leave it.”

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TAKE A LOAD OFF: Deb Lovely calculated that she lifts between 10 and 20 tonnes a day when training

Did you become a Christian as a child or was there a revelation later in life?
“Obviously been brought up in a Christian home has been helpful and I was in the middle of five kids - I have two older brothers and two younger sisters - and we all went to Christian school and we all went to church twice on Sunday and got really involved. I suppose, at the same time, I know it’s hard for people who grow up in a non-Christian family and they look at people like me who grew up in a Christian home and say “It’s easy for you, you grew up in a Christian home’. I do admit it is the best start to life but at the same time, you do have to make that decision for yourself. I heard someone saying once that God doesn’t have grandchildren, but He’s only got children and that really made me think that it’s a decision you have to make as well, that you can’t keep putting it off, saying ‘My dad’s a Christian’ or ‘My mum’s a Christian’ - you still have to decide that for yourself...So yeah, it was sort of more of an unconscious decision that I grew up in a Christian home but then it was a conscious one that I decided that if I go off and am talking to kids about my faith and encouraging them, then I have to really know that this is where I stand."

You’re getting married at the end of this year. How hard is it preparing for an Olympics with that coming up as well?
“It’s actually nice because I really find that in my life I really need that balance. I find that whenever I don’t have that balance in my life I start to get injured or something goes wrong...things just get a bit crazy...(But) I’ve got a lot of people around me that help me so it’s great at the moment.”

You’re also studying law and criminology in Brisbane? Where do you see that heading?
“It’s a double degree at Griffiths University - I’m on a sports scholarship there. They’re a really, really good university that help me out a lot...Hopefully if I can be a solicitor or a lawyer, eventually, down the track - that would be really good. I’ll just have to wait and see where God leads.”

In Australia, sport is often seen as a replacement for religion. What’s your take on that?
“In one sense, I can see what they’re getting at in that sport - I mean, anything in life - can be put in place of God...I can understand because there’s a huge thrill in doing sport...It’s funny because, sometimes at some of the churches I have gone to, they’ve felt the need to say to me that sport’s not the most important thing in life and honestly, nobody understand that better than I do. I really understand the place where sport should be and I know I have people around me to make sure that sport doesn’t get to be the number one thing in my life. I’m pretty grounded with having two brothers and sisters.”

Weightlifting still often isn’t viewed as a sport for women. What would you say to a woman who was thinking of training to be one?
“That’s the really good thing about my position as well. With Queensland Weightlifting, with my training partner from the Sydney Olympics, I’ve been able to go around and do a bit of talent ID with kids, especially girls. And at one point we actually had more girls enrolled with Queensland Weightlifting than we did guys. So that was really good. I suppose one big thing is that it halves the risk of osteoporosis later in life - doing a weight bearing activity like weightlifting - and the second big thing is that I can see the difference it makes in girls that come into the gym, that are timid little things that are so scared and shy and, by the end of it, within a couple of months, they’re walking along really confident and saying ‘Yeah, I’m a weightlifter’. It’s something that really gives them confidence in their life. It’s really amazing to see...And that’s whether they become national champions or not.”