Amber Sheppard started out as a keen diver. When she needed to get stronger to make deeper dives she started going to the gym. A few years later, she is one of England’s most promising weightlifting talents.
She is a London Youth Games gold medallist, and in 2014 became British champion at under-18 level. Sheppard competes in the 58kg category.
The 19-year-old is a member of Crystal Palace Weightlifting Club where she trains together with senior members of the Team GB squad including Mercy Brown and Jo Calvino.
Sheppard combines her weightlifting career with taking a Sports Management degree at St Mary’s University in Twickenham.
How did you get into weightlifting?
I was originally a diver, I dived for 10 years. I competed for Team GB, but I needed to get stronger to do harder dives. I already knew someone who did weightlifting so I asked him if he was able to help me to get stronger. The plan for me was to do just a few sessions, but I liked it so I just kept coming back.
How do you combine being an elite athlete and the student life?
I think I can manage it quite well. The university I go to is quite helpful, I get time off to go to competitions. Sometimes it gets hectic when you have deadlines and competitions coming up, then it is a stressful period, but I can manage it.
Do you feel that you are missing out on some things?
I am not going to lie – during my first year at university I did not miss out on anything, I went to parties almost every day! It did help me in a way – not in my training, of course, but it helped me to make friends and to get around a new place.
And now, when I do get stuck with university work, I always have people around who can help me. If I had isolated myself I think I would not have had people who could help me with my work. Now I am in my second year and I focus more on my training.
How important is it to have a good bond with your coach?
My coach, Keith Morgan, is vital. When I was back at home I was training with him six days a week, I would see him everyday. Now I’ve come to uni and he still plays an important role.
I always ring him up after training. And I train with him once a week back in Crystal Palace. He is the key in my training and getting me better.
Where are you training for now? Are you going to next year’s Commonwealth Games in Australia?
I am not going to the Commonwealths – I was out because of a hip injury for three months, and because of that I missed the qualifications. I have come back stronger. Everything is looking up now.
The English championships are coming up in January so I am training for that. It’s a big senior competition, so that is the goal for now. Training is very hard at the moment. It is only to make me stronger. Weightlifting is a sport where everything will happen on the day of the competition.
All the training does not really matter until you are on that platform. But if I am performing like I am doing now, I think I am definitely in the race for a medal.
‘Coming second at the Junior Commonwealth championships in India three years ago, that was special’
How do you feel that, after the 2016 Rio Olympics, they decided to cut the funding for British weightlifters?
This is a hard one. The athletes don’t get anything unless they have individual sponsors. It is bad but I cannot really say anything because I am not on the directors’ board.
What is you most memorable moment in your weightlifting career so far?
I’ve got a few but coming second at the Junior Commonwealth Championships in India three years ago, that was special. It was my first ‘Team England’ event.
I’d only been to competitions in Europe, so going to India was really amazing. And coming second as a junior made me very happy. I have had other memorable moments but this one really stands out because nobody expected me to come second.
And lastly, what is your ultimate goal?
My ultimate goal is definitely going to the Olympics. I also want to do more international tournaments. I want to compete with the elite in the world.
Follow Amber on Twitter @amber7sheppard