POWERLIFTER Leigh Wetheridge admitted the adrenaline was coursing through her veins as she held her nerve to win the European Championship on her final lift.
The 21-year-old needed to match her Hungarian rival and lift 197.5 kilogrammes in the deadlift as the under-23 championships in Tartu, Estonia, came down to a dramatic last lift.
And hold her nerve she did as Wetheridge lifted the weight she needed to tie with her rival on an overall score of 460 kilogrammes and then win the 84-plus kilogramme title by virtue of the fact she weighed less than her opponent.
“I’ve never been in a competition where it has come down to the last lift before. I knew that I had to get it right if I wanted to win,” said Wetheridge, from Eastwood.
“The adrenaline was pumping and I just went for it.”
Wetheridge winning overall total of 460 kilos – the combined total of her squat, bench press and deadlift – not only made her European Champion but was a new British record.
Indeed, in each of the three disciplines, the former Westcliff High School for Girls pupil re-wrote the national record books.
“I won a gold medal for the squat with 170 kilos, a silver for the bench press with 92.5kilos and gold in the dead lift with 197.5kilos.
“All of them were the most I had ever lifted for each discipline and all were British records, as was the overall total of 460 kilos.”
Wetheridge was cheered on throughout the competition by her parents Ian and Tracey, sister Chloe and boyfriend Liam.
And she said standing on the top step of the podium, hearing the national anthem and having that support network nearby was something she will never forget.
“I was just so happy,” she said. “It was an incredible feeling being up there and hearing the national anthem being played for you. And to have my family around me to share that was special.
“They were cheering me on throughout the whole competition, it was like having my own little cheerleading team!”
Wetheridge has now returned to the University of Kent where she is studying for a law degree.
But she is already casting her mind ahead to the next big challenge, the World Championships in Texas in June.
“That’s another different level again,” she said. “But I would love to go there and be a part of it.
“I’m confident I can lift even more than I did in Estonia and that’s something I can work on in the next three months.”