“Don't let anyone tell you, you can't do anything, just because of the way you look”
Commonwealth Games weightlifting entrant, Deborah Alawode, is as humble as she is remarkable.
The 24-year-old is a med student who is also doing her PhD in Alzheimer's disease.
Her interest in medicine, particularly neurology, was influenced by an uncle who suffered a cerebral aneurysm.
The decision to specialise in Alzheimer's research was made when she spent time volunteering at a nursing home where most of the residents suffered from the condition. Her compassion and curiosity set her off on a path of discovery, which ultimately led to her settling on this academic path.
Deborah has always been both studious, cultural and sporty. “You don't have to look a certain way and you don't only have to be sporty or academic, you definitely can be both”.
Her extra curriculars at school were a mix of playing the violin, doing ballet, singing in the choir, sprinting and shotput. “My parents said as long as I was keeping up with my studies then they wouldn't stop me from doing anything”, she adds smiling.
The opportunity to add weightlifting to her list of activities came at age 16 when she took part in a 6-week taster course, where she quickly caught the attention of the coach. “I got given the nickname “The One” at the taster course but because I was so busy with all my other activities, I declined the invitation to be part of the team at that time,” she says.
A year later, during her summer break, the same coach contacted Deborah, asking her to ‘fill a gap’, as one more female lifter was needed to compete at the London Youth Games, and Deborah was, once again “ The One”.
That was 7 years ago, and the UCL student is proving to be one of the most promising weightlifters in England. “I’ve won various medals and British titles, my most recent being British U23 Women’s under 71kg Gold Medallist. I also hold all 3 British U23 records for my weight category and I am a member of the Great Britain talent squad I’ll be taking part in the Commonwealth Games in July.
“I'm dedicated to weightlifting,” she says. Deborah trains 5 times a week; 3 times with her coach and twice a week alone.
“I am Christian and I find a lot of strength from my faith. It takes a lot to throw me; I’m very good at motivating myself, although weightlifting is [a] very individual [sport], having teammates egging me on, is really important for me too”.
Her next big goal is to participate at the Olympics. “After my PhD, I'm going to take a year out to focus on weightlifting so that I can qualify for Olympics, hopefully, she adds.
“I'm the type of person that wants to prove someone wrong, that's one of the things that's fuelled me, she adds.