Chloe Hood has really caught the eye in weightlifting over the past year and has added Welsh and British titles to her previous Welsh caps in cricket – as Bill Carne discovered when he popped into the SAW gym in Haverfordwest for a chat with the 14 year old sporting all-rounder...

AT just 14 years of age Chloe Hood has already represented Wales Cricket in two distinct age groups and is currently Welsh and British champion for her weight and age as a member of Strength Academy Wales.

Sadly, Chloe is currently side-lined from both sports because she has damaged her left knee, sustained in a cricket match for Johnston Ladies against their counterparts from Hook, but her specialist has told her that with a little luck she will be soon able to throw away her crutches and start competing again!

Chloe was opening the bowling for Johnston at Hook and was later due to bat at No 4 when she ran in and perhaps stretched a little too far - and heard the 'pop' as she strained her ligaments. To make matters worse, Chloe spent six hours waiting for treatment with mum Lindsey at Accident & Emergency, and to make matters even worse than that, Johnston lost the match!

So now she's itching to get started again with the cricket season so short, but at least Chloe has the consolation of playing more than most because as well as Johnston Ladies, where Naomi James looks after her brilliantly as captain, she also plays for Haverfordwest Cricket Club's under 1s, under 15s, under 17s and under 19s in the new T20 League.

Then there's county matches and a regular place in Haverfordwest CC's fourth team, where she is well looked after by Paul Maggs and was delighted last season to be the top wicket-taker in the fourths!

On the international front, Chloe told us,

"I had my first cap at under 11 level and I was thrilled to be picked - and I was so proud when my family were with me at the special presentation evening where I received my Welsh Cap at Sophia Gardens, in Cardiff.

"Last tear I played for the Welsh under 15s down in Plymouth and on tour in Malvern, where I didn't bowl but scored 23 and 10 not out. Again I was proud to get my Welsh cap at the end of the year but decided not to go for trials this season because it means so much travel, especially to trials and training sessions, alongside my playing in Pembrokeshire.

Chloe's best figures are 5 for 42 for the county under 13s, she had 3 for 20 in another match and scored 25 not out before having to retire under the rules of the age group.

That Chloe should play cricket should come as no surprise, because her father Paul Hood was a useful fast bowler and big hitter with Herbrandston and Johnston - and she started out after watching him play, with Jackie Williams giving her every encouragement as well.

But if dad was her cricket inspiration then there is no doubt that her mum Lindsey did the same in weightlifting, as she was when brother Ieuan was a Welsh champion before he was 11 years old!

Lindsey and Chloe were looking at old family photographs when they came across one of Lindsey weight-lifting when she was young and Chloe decided she would like to follow in mum's footsteps.

Lindsey took her along to her uncle, Steve John, and was soon training at the well-equipped shed at the bottom of his garden.

"At first he would only let me train with just an unloaded wooden bar as I started off with the 'Clean & Jerk', until the time when I could manipulate it the right way and then Steve gradually got me increasing the weight at each end.

"We did the same with 'The Snatch', although that was a lot harder because it all has to be done in one movement - but within a month I was improving my personal bests in both categories."

Then came her first competition: straight into the real action at the Welsh Schools' Championships, held locally at STP School

"I thought I was ready," admitted Chloe, “but nothing prepared me for stepping out onto the mat on my own in front of other competitors and a noisy crowd, so I was chuffed I conquered my nerves and completed all three lifts in each of the 'Clean & Jerk' and 'Snatch', with personal bests of 53kgs and 43Kgs respectively in the 'Clean & Jerk' and ‘Snatch’ for a combined total of 98kgs.”

This qualified Chloe for the British Championships in Birmingham and by then she had started to train with Simon Roach and Owain Rowlands at the Strength Academy Wales because Steve was taking a deserved rest.

"They made me really welcome," Chloe told us, "and I went up to Birmingham with Niamh Roach, Alex John and Rhiannon James.

"I was amazed when I saw the number of competitors and the size of the crowd, but I wasn’t as nervous as before, even though I was last to lift. When we got there I thought I’d be in the 69kgs weight category but I was smack on the lower weight division of 63kgs, which was a help.

“I managed three good lifts in ‘The Snatch’ and the first two in the ‘Clean & Jerk’ but missed out on my final attempt at the ‘Clean and Jerk’ on a new PB attempt at 61kgs – but by then I knew that I had already won the competition by quite a bit and I was really pleased to go up and collect my gold medal with a combined total of 105kgs.

Chloe broke four Welsh records in Birmingham, which was terrific. But paled into insignificance in comparison with the Welsh Championships, where she smashed an amazing NINETEEN records, beating the previous best for every age group from under 14 to under 19!

Chloe’s reward for excellence came recently when she was chosen for Wales at junior level in the European Championships, held in Austria, and finished in a highly competitive fifth place out of 18 in her class, most of them almost a year older than she was

“It was almost 35 degrees when we were lifting so Simon made sure we were properly hydrated, although it was still very hard work – but the same for all of us, I suppose.

“But I managed to lift 63kgs in the ‘Clean & Jerk’ and 50kgs in ‘The Snatch’ for a combined total of 113kgs so I was really chuffed about that.”

So what of the future in weightlifting for Chloe Hood? Her aim is eventually to compete in the next but one Commonwealth Games and she has again her improved her PB in the SAW gym to 116kgs.

She has undoubted skills in both cricket and weight lifting but above all else an infectious enthusiasm for just taking part – and we wish her every success, especially in the weight lifting, because if she can maintain her current rate of progress then this modest young miss is destined to go far!