Duncan Mackay

Tiny teenage weightlifting sensation Zoe Smith continues to demonstrate that she is likely to be one of Britain's star turns in 2012, setting new records - now in excess of 200 - almost every time she heaves more than three times her own 9st body weight above her  head. The personable 5ft 2in Kent schoolgirl, just 16, is one of the most prodigiously talented young athletes in the country.

Yet earlier this year she had her funding suspended by World Class Lifting (WCL) following a dispute over her coaching programme, the governing body wanting her to move from her home to be under their supervision in Leeds, which would have taken her away from her personal coach, Andy Callard, and, as her supportive parents pointed out, disrupted her schooling. A pupil at Townley Grammar School in Bexleyheath she is no dumb belle, hoping to go to University to study languages.

After we drew the attention of funding body UK Sport to this daft situation it was quickly resolved. Or so it seemed. Last month Zoe, already the Commonwealth Youth champion, won silver in the European Youth Championships in Spain breaking the snatch record, the best performance by a British lifter in a decade as WCL themselves proudly boasted at the time.

This entitled her to be elevated to the next funding level but we hear this is now being withheld because written documentation for her training plan supplied by her coach, who has also been appointed as one of England’s coaches for the Commonwealth Games, is considered inadequate by WCL.

We understand that Callard has provided as much documentation as he feels able to and has explained that he doesn’t work to strictly written down plans - especially looking as far ahead as a year. WCL’s reaction has been to inform Zoe that  she must remain on basic funding and won’t be moved up to the next level that the Spanish result earned for her.

Strewth! Bureaucracy eh? The word that strangles sport with the red tape it represents. Surely Zoe(pictured), who began as a child gymnast, is too precious a talent to be weighed down by politics. She seems literally worth her weight in gold.

She is not alone in being a female lifter having her funding snatched away, so to speak. Michaela Breeze, who pioneered the women’s sport in  this country, is so peed off she has decided to quit after the Commonwealth Games in October and won’t try for a place at London 2012, which would have been her third  consecutive Olympics and a fitting finale to her splendid career.

Michaela, 31, expresses "great relief" at not having to work with the national weightlifting body, specifically Hungarian Tamás Fehér, the GB world class lifting lead performance coach, with whom Breeze has had a differences of opinion over the past 12 months. It is Feher that WCL originally wanted Zoe to work with.

This means Michaela will have to pay for herself in order to compete for Wales in Delhi. "It hasn't been an easy decision to make, but  I can't begin to tell you of the immense relief now that I've finally made up my mind,” she tells her local paper, the Plymouth Herald. "I have been proud to compete both for Great Britain and Wales, but after the national championships in June and the Commonwealth Games in India, that's me done. I'll definitely miss not being able to compete at the London Olympics, that would have been my third after Athens (2004) and China (Beijing 2008).

"There's so much I could say about the current governing body for British weightlifting, but suffice to say, I'll not miss having to following their programmes at all, in particular, the performance coach, who imposes these on us. It came to a point where I told him  last year, after suffering a string of injuries, that I wouldn't follow his programmes any more and would go my own way. Since then, my back has improved and so have my results.

"But, really, it's the entire leadership and organisation, the unnecessary pressure and unrealistic totals. But I am looking forward to it all being put behind me after Delhi and have already hit the qualifying mark."

Michaela, who won Commonwealth gold and silver for Wales adds: "I have now been officially dropped by World Class Lifting which means all funding and medical support will be stopping in the next couple of months. So I'll have to try and fund my own physiotherapy and everything else myself."

British weightlifting hasn’t exactly covered itself in Olympic gold dust over the years. So why is it that the blazered bureaucrats in minor sports like this always seem to want their competitors to conform? Don’t they realise it is usually the non-conformists like Zoe and Michaela who usually win the medals?

Alan Hubbard is an award-winning sports columnist for The Independent on Sunday, and a former sports editor of The Observer. He has covered a total of 16 Summer and Winter Olympics