CLYDESDALE BANK FEBRUARY ATHLETE OF THE MONTH ANNOUNCED
The 2009 season proved a series of Herculean achievements for Ayrshire weightlifter, Peter Kirkbride, who is poised to represent Scotland at October’s Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
The 22 year old from Hurlford near Kilmarnock, holds 17 British records, three of them taken in the season-ending Scottish Senior Championships in Pitlochry. He bettered Team Scotland’s Commonwealth Games qualifying criteria by 20kg. In a final crowning glory after a spectacular season he became British Weightlifter of the Year.
Those, combined with other achievements, have led Kirkbride to be named the Clydesdale Bank Athlete of the Month for February. The scheme, being run by Commonwealth Games Scotland in conjunction with Clydesdale Bank as part of its programme of support to Team Scotland, is open to athletes in any of the 17 participating sports who are eligible to represent Scotland at this year’s Games in Delhi.
“It is a great honour to be named Athlete of the Month,” said Kirkbride, who receives a £500 cheque to go towards costs of training and competition. “I have won local awards before but nothing on a national level like this. This is a big thing for me and will help towards my training and travel.”
Peter began weightlifting as an 11 year old. Charlie Hamilton is the coach who has guided him ever since that day when he set foot in Kilmarnock Weightlifting Club.
“When he first came here he could do the splits and it was obvious he was very athletic, even though he’d never done any sports,” says Hamilton.
“I remember taking him to his first British Schoolboy Championships. He came second and after that he just trained and trained and won everything he competed in.
“At 12 he won the British Schoolboy Championships, at 13 he started breaking British records. Now he holds 17 different British age group records from under 15 to under 23. He’s been winning Scottish senior titles since he was 16 and holds every Scottish senior record.”
Kirkbride has Commonwealth Games experience. He won gold at the Youth Games in Bendigo, and finished sixth in the last main Games in Melbourne 2006.
“Melbourne was one of the best experiences of my life,” he says. “I was the youngest weightlifter ever to represent Scotland and I was up against some good competition. It was a totally different world to what I’m used to, being on the big stage with thousands of folk watching you and millions more watching you through the cameras. I’m a big show off in that way.”
Funding from World Class Weightlifting Ltd means Kirkbride can make the sport his full time occupation for at least the next year. In a typical week he has six weight training sessions, with further time spent swimming and boxing.
Helping him deal with the occupational hazards is the West of Scotland Institute of Sport, part of the sportscotland institute of sport’s regional network, which provides high performance expertise to Scotland’s potential world class talent. Last year he suffered a ‘sore elbow’ which the institute’s physiotherapists treated successfully.
Kirkbride is on the light side for his 94kg category, but that hasn’t stopped him clearing astonishing poundages.
“I’m trying to get my weight up as high as I can as I’m only about 91kg, so I’m giving away about three kilos to my opposition…if there is any,” he says. “I’m more of a clean and jerker than a snatcher but you need to keep the two equal. In my last competition I did 145kg for snatch and I clean and jerked 186kg.
“My first try out this year will be at the Palace of Art next month in the Scottish Open. I’m going for big stuff, even bigger than in my last competition. So it should be fun.”
Kirkbride’s early season focus is April’s EU Championships in Belarus where the plan according to Hamilton is to break more records. Then, just six months hence, are the Delhi Games.
In Cyprus last summer Kirkbride became Commonwealth Champion, an achievement which gives an indication of his potential should he be confirmed in Delhi-bound Team Scotland.
“There was some good competition in Cyprus but not everyone showed up for that,” says Kirkbride. “But they will obviously all be there in Delhi. I’m not far off any of them and to be honest I’m not really bothered about my competition.
“I don’t focus on what they are doing but just on what I am doing. I take things one step at a time and see what happens. Sometimes you’ve got it on the day, sometimes it doesn’t work out. For Delhi all I would ask for is to stay healthy and injury free.”
Hamilton is more revealing about their plans, “I’ve been involved for 30 years in weightlifting and I’ve never seen strength like this in a boy in my life.
“Our plan a year ago was a medal of some colour in India, top 10 in London and gold in Glasgow. If he keeps going the way he is it might be gold sooner than you think.”
Clydesdale Bank’s support helps to ensure that athletes training and competing at this level will benefit from extra financial support to help them achieve their goals. The award scheme is a great additional incentive to the athletes as they strive to deliver top performances over the next ten months to book their place on the team.