Growing up Ollie Clinton was sold on finding the gospel according to Hoop Heaven in Hawke's Bay but along the way he found a bar instead to quench his sporting desire.
More than three years ago Clinton took up Crossfit to stabilise his 1.82m, 79.8kg frame for basketball but struck a chord with the bar and bells of the weightlifting kind.
"I started it for just a bit of fun and found I was a little bit good at it," says the 18-year-old from Napier somewhat modestly after becoming the country's best exponent in the junior 81kg category of the New Zealand Olympic Weightlifting Championship in Auckland, on October 31.
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The conscious decision to dismount from the treadmill of consumption, replication and mediocrity to shoulder the weight of creativity, originality and incremental gains saw the Hastings Boys' High School year 13 student start to sketch a roadmap to success.
At North Shore, Clinton chalked a milestone personal best 105kg in the snatch discipline of his category, eclipsing Kieran McGovern, of Otago, by 11kg. He managed 124kg in the clean-and-jerk routine.
The former Hastings Intermediate pupil's accolades come on the heels of becoming the best New Zealand Secondary Schools (U81kg — 100kg snatch, 130kg clean and jerk) athlete in September.
Not only did he catch the eye of the Olympic Weightlifting NZ officials but he had also earned the distinction of becoming the top overall weightlifter of the NZSS tournament — that is, having the highest total lift compared to body weight.
"I don't like coming second, that's for sure," says the bloke who has lifted successfully in every attempt at NZSSC level for the past two years.
Clinton is indebted to his coaches, Ray Everest and Luke McGruer, of Mt Maunganui.
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Born in Mt Maunganui, the former St Mary's School and St Joseph's School (Hastings) product still plays a little bit of basketball but his preoccupation is with weightlifting and Crossfit.
Ask him what it is about the two lifting codes and Clinton replies: "I don't know. I suppose you always feel good about yourself when you lift heavy."
He chuckles at suggestions that his stature makes him "a little cut in the middle".
"When I play basketball I wish I was a bit taller but with weights I wish I was a little shorter."
He part owns a gym, East Coast Strength and Conditioning in his suburb of Taradale along Gloucester St.
Clinton harbours a desire to compete in the junior world championship to be held in Cairo, Egypt, and the senior ranks of the Oceania Championship to be staged in Nauru, both next year.
He notes this year's world juniors was in Suva, Fiji, but is mindful travel will be a factor, not to mention the climate.
Smashing the 124kg snatch and 151kg clean-and-jerk Kiwi records along the way is on the agenda. So is the Oceania milestones of 138kg and 161kg of the respective disciplines.
On the bigger landscape, the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, and the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, France, beckon.
Clinton reckons sticking to a regimented dietary plan and putting in the hours during training are crucial in realising his goals.
"I definitely should probably eat better, to be honest, but I find weightlifting is different to Crossfit where I had to eat way better in Crossfit than weightlifting," he says in racking up 20 hours a week in the gym.
The teenager maintains a rapport with Everest and McGruer four times a week via social media platforms, lauding them for their mentoring and mindful he wouldn't be where he is without their input.
"I'm actually thinking of possibly moving up there," he says, revealing his mother, Vicki Semple, the Aims Games of New Zealand organiser for intermediate schools, lives in Mt Maunganui.
His father, Duane Clinton, has a basketballing background while Semple was a long-distance runner but embraces myriad codes.
He intends to commit fully to weightlifting for the next two years before pursuing tertiary education to seek qualifications as a physiotherapist.
1st: NZ Secondary School (U81kg — 100kg snatch, 130kg clean and jerk).
Overall weightlifter at NZSSC when compared to body weight.
1st: NZ Olympic Weightlifting Nationals (U81kg junior).
8th: Senior category.
1st: NZSS (U77kg — 90kg snatch, 110kg clean and jerk).
2nd: NZOW (U77kg junior).
8th: U77kg senior.