Ross Sinclair

Ross Sinclair’s Olympic weightlifting journey

National titles, Commonwealth dreams, and mentoring the next generation

When a 16-year-old Ross Sinclair decided to go along to weightlifting classes to build up strength for his other sports, he did not imagine that just three weeks later he would be entering his first competition.  

Now 22 and with a British title and numerous Scottish titles under his belt, Ross is competing at the top of the game alongside running the weightlifting club at home in Orkney. 

We sat down with Ross to chat about his journey with Olympic weightlifting and how he balances his own training and competitions with his role as a coach. 

“I did athletics when I was younger and I was developing a lot of back injuries, so I started going to the gym to strengthen up,” Ross told us.  

“Around that time, I heard about weightlifting classes that Matthew Byers was running and thought I’d go along and give it a go.” 

A new community  

Just three weeks later, Ross and his coach Matthew were off on a trip across the water to compete. Off the back of that very first performance, he was invited to compete at British Age Groups. 

“That whole experience was just incredible,” he said. 

“The thing that really struck me at that first competition was how great the weightlifting community was. I knew instantly that it was something I wanted to be a part of.” 

Those initial competitions were merely the start for Ross who now competes all over the UK and trains regularly as part of the U23 National Scotland Squad. 

Living in the Orkney Islands means that for Ross, training and competing on the mainland is a huge commitment. With around 14 trips across the water annually, Ross is grateful that some of the cost is covered by the sportscotland Athlete Travel Award Scheme (ATAS). 

“I always try to book my flights well in advance to keep the cost down but sometimes that just isn’t possible when I get a last-minute call up.  

“That’s where the ATAS funding is so helpful,” he explained. 

Off-island treatment  

On top of his travels for training and competition, Ross has recently been undergoing shock therapy.

“Back in April, I was doing an exercise and partially tore my patellar tendon. It wasn’t healing right so I spoke to my coach who advised that I needed shock therapy. 

“When I did my research, I discovered that I couldn’t actually get it in Orkney, so I’ve been travelling down to Glasgow for therapy.” 

Ross takes it all in his stride expressing that it’s 'just what you have to do when you live on an island.'

Approaching the halfway mark in his shock therapy treatment, Ross says that the sessions paired with the physiotherapy he has been able to get at home in Orkney mean he is very much on the mend and is now preparing for his return to competition. 

Giving back  

Alongside his own training, Ross runs the Orkney Amateur Weight Lifting Club, coaching both group classes and one-to-one sessions throughout the week.   

“I did my British Weightlifting level 1 coaching back in 2018 so that I could help my coach at the time, Matthew, with the club,” he explained. 

“Then when I moved down to Edinburgh for my apprenticeship in 2019, I found myself coaching classes of 30-plus folk at my new gym. That was really daunting at first but the more I did it, the more confident I became.” 

When Ross moved back home in 2021, he continued to help out at the club until lead coach Matthew moved off the island for work.  

“At that point, I undertook my level 2 coaching which allows me to coach all the classes.” 

Ross now balances his job as a trainee instrument technician at the Flotta Oil Terminal with coaching 4-6 weightlifting classes a week, with participants ranging in age from 12 to late 50s. 

As Ross’ commute to and from work involves getting a small ferry each way, he finds it easiest to fit in classes when he is off shift, but still manages to head to the gym for his own sessions and the occasional one-to-one straight off the boat!  

When asked what motivates him to give up so much of his free time for the club, he said: 

“I just really enjoy seeing how far some of them have come since I started coaching. 

“It’s also great to be able to give younger athletes opportunities that I couldn’t access at their age. It’s a really exciting time for the sport in Orkney.” 

Looking ahead 

With the end of Ross’ treatment now in sight, he is looking to get his strength back to its pre-injury state in preparation for competition between August and September.  

“In the near future, I’d like to be competing with Team Scotland more and be medalling at Scottish seniors and British age groups again,” he told us. 

Long-term, Ross has his sights on the Commonwealth Games. Back in 2022, he was selected for the Commonwealth Games Achieve Programme which aims to prepare up-and-coming athletes for participation in future games.  

Ross had the opportunity to attend the Birmingham Games, attend workshops and train and live like a Commonwealth Games athlete.  

“I was so lucky to be given that opportunity and I took so much from it.  

“Representing Team Scotland at a Commonwealth Games is such a big dream of mine and I guess everything I’m doing now is working towards that goal.” 

More info

  • The sportscotland Athlete Travel Award Scheme (ATAS) supports travel costs for Highland and island competitors to help talented athletes from the Outer Hebrides, Orkney, Shetland and Highland to gain better access to competitive and developmental opportunities available on the mainland. The scheme in Orkney runs in partnership with Orkney Islands Council and Stagecoach. Successful applicants benefit from up to £1,500 to support travel and accommodation costs in attending training and competitions.
  • To find out more about the ATAS fund across the Highlands and Islands, visit: Athlete Travel Award Scheme (ATAS) - sportscotland the national agency for sport in Scotland 

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