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Six to follow: Georgi Black takes her time over future

THE vivid blue hue of her hair may be slowly fading but for Georgi Black the memories of competing at her first Commonwealth Games will long endure.

Georgi Black on her way to setting another Scottish record at the Commonwealth GamesPhotograph:  Christian Cooksey
Georgi Black on her way to setting another Scottish record at the Commonwealth GamesPhotograph: Christian Cooksey

The 24-year-old weightlifter from Kilmarnock, one of the Sunday Herald's Six To Follow to Glasgow 2014, finished ninth in the women's 63kg weight class.

She posted a total score of 175kg, comprising 75kg in the snatch and 100kg - a Scottish record - for the clean and jerk. Ola Adesanmi from Nigeria took gold with a total of 207kg (92kg in snatch, 115kg in clean and jerk), her compatriot and defending champion Obioma Okoli the silver and Punam Yadav from India bronze.

Black was one of four weightlifters selected to represent Team Scotland alongside Peter Kirkbride (94kg), Louise Mather (69kg) and her younger cousin Sophie Smyth (58kg). She grins while recalling stepping out to compete at the packed Clyde Auditorium in Glasgow.

"The crowd went mental," says Black. "I had a train-load of folk come up from Killie. My boyfriend Matt's full family came as well. The first people I saw were my two best pals Alex and Jenny. They were jumping around daft with Scotland flags painted on their cheeks. That was brilliant. When it came time for me to lift, I was so concentrated and focused that I didn't see anything."

In preparation for the Games, Black went on a strict diet, reducing her food intake to below 800 calories a day as she moved down from the 75kg weight class - in which she won gold at the 2011 Commonwealth Weightlifting Championships in South Africa - to 63kg.

The hard work didn't stop when she entered the Athletes' Village where, under the guidance of her nutritionist Nikos Jakubiak at sportscotland institute of sport, Black embarked on the gruelling task of ensuring she was bang on 63kg for her pre-competition weigh-in.

"Nikos had me on the bike, in the saunas - it was tough going," she says. "I was doing more exercise and eating less as the days ticked down. I'd have maybe a bit of chicken and two boiled eggs, while Peter [Kirkbride] was sitting there with pizza for breakfast which smelled delicious. That was torture."

Black may no longer need to scrupulously count every calorie that passes her lips, but the nine- time Scottish weightlifting champion said: "I thought I'd want to eat everything in sight, but the strange thing is I don't."

"I had a wee bowl of pasta the other day which was amazing. It felt weird not having to think: 'Is this sauce made with cream?'. It was only a small portion but I was dead chuffed with that."

Her performance at the Games means she now holds the Scottish record at 63kg, 69kg and 75kg, but Black says she will pause to take stock and sit down with her coach Chick Hamilton to have a realistic look at the future. "It would be good to be 69kg - but a strong 69kg," she says. "This past year it has been a big ask of my body to come down in weight to 63kg and stay strong, not just physically but mentally too.

"If I was able to stay a strong 69kg with no injuries I would do it. Sophie said to me the other day: 'Let's keep going for another four years and go to the next Games', but it's not simply a case of wanting it, rather about how my body is holding up. There's my knees and hips, waking up in agony every morning when you are only 24 - I need to take some time to just figure out what's best."

There are other major considerations too. According to Black, the funding received by the Scottish weightlifters came on the back of Kirkbride's silver in Delhi four years ago. With no medals this time around she doesn't know whether that level of support will continue.

"I'd like to stay in the sport but it all depends whether sportscotland institute of sport are going to keep me on," she says. "We got extra funding because Peter got a medal in Delhi. This time around we had no medals from weightlifting.

"We had the smallest team. Every other weightlifting nation had two people in each category: we had four in total. Expecting a medal out of four people is a big ask.

"Even with the support I had going into the Games I still had to work two or three jobs, train and look after my wee gran. We will need to see what happens next. But I wouldn't have got here if it wasn't for the expertise of Nikos and the team at sportscotland institute of sport."

First, though, comes the challenge of it sinking in that the Games are done and dusted. "It's been a great experience but at the same time it hasn't felt real," Black says. "I don't think you can take it all in at the time. It won't hit me properly until I've been home a week or so."

"It's a strange feeling to think of something you've trained towards for four years is gone like that," she adds with a snap of her fingers. The rest of August will be a time to relax, says Black, and for catching up with her new fan club. "I've got 120 friend requests on Facebook and an extra 200 followers on Twitter," she smiles. "Even the at opening ceremony there was a glimpse of me on the TV and everyone was pausing it, taking screengrabs and sending them to me. I was like: 'Err, great. That's only half my face'."

Yet, the irrepressible Black remains as unstarry and down to earth as ever.

"We have the Scottish Champ-ionships in November," she says. "That will be the next aim: to become Scottish senior champion again. It will feel a bit different, going from being out there on a massive stage to competing in a sports hall in Pitlochry with 20 folk watching. Actually, when you think of it that way, it's all a bit mental."

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