The Power of Sisterhood - In conversation with Emily Sweeney

Emily Sweeney competing in snatch

It is often the case that you look ‘up’ for inspiration, women who are older than you or further along in their journey. After an hour talking to 17-year old Emily Sweeney, I felt inspired. She has spent the last year working on Olympic lifting in her garage and continues to progress in her lifts. In the English Championships, held virtually in February, she hit an 80kg snatch and 100kg Clean and Jerk. 

Emily started training at age 12 at a local gym, Basecamp, run by Danni and James Evans. It was there she got into CrossFit, competing in the under-15s category, and then started weightlifting. Today she is an elite level Olympic weightlifter, having recently won the SBD Young Weightlifter of the year award and is in the England Commonwealth Training Squad for 2022. Her ambition is to go to the Olympics. 

We talked about how Emily has adapted her training routine during the last year and where she finds support and motivation. 


Emily has spent the last year training in her garage and fitting in her sessions around her school work. During the week she trains after school, working through her lunch break to provide more free time, and hitting double sessions on the weekends. She works with her coach, Rhodri Thomas, on WhatsApp and sometimes has a group zoom session with other youth weightlifters. 

Her motivation and dedication to her sport are incredibly impressive; evidenced by constant progress on her lifts. In August 2020 she competed in the World Youth Cup and placed 6th in the World - hitting a 78kg Snatch and 94kg Clean and Jerk. Then in February this year, she improved on those lifts in the English Championships, hitting an 80kg Snatch and 100kg Clean and Jerk. 

What does Emily love about Olympic lifting?

She loves the challenge and is very reluctant to give up - trying something over and over again until she achieves it. She sets numeric-based goals which feel more tangible, as she works towards that number. Being able to see progress is what continues to motivate her.

Through her training, Emily has become more resilient and never gives up. When you fail a lift, you think “never mind I’ll try that again” and she says this has translated into her school work. If something doesn’t go to plan she knows she can always work harder.

Who is in Emily’s support network?

She is part of the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) which means she has a great training support network - nutritionist, physio, strength and conditioning coach, and a lifestyle advisor, alongside her main coach Rhodri. She has meetings with them regularly to help in any way she needs, work through her goals, and help her organise her time.

She also has a group of other young female weightlifters that she can lean on. During the pandemic, Emily has leant more on this community because she knew they were going through the same thing - no competitions or squads, but continuing to train. 

“Whenever I get a PB I send it to the same four girls first and they all congratulate me.”

These friends are always there supporting each other and that’s been so important to Emily. Having like-minded people that you can talk to leads to great friendships because you completely understand what each other is going through.

They can also relate to the commitment and sacrifices made to be the best athlete you can be. It’s invaluable to have friendships within her lifting community - they motivate each other, moan together, and celebrate each other’s successes. 

This week the England Commonwealth Training Squad for 2022 was announced and Emily is part of it! She is definitely one to watch. Follow her journey here.