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Zoe Smith talks about taking a huge step back in time

Zoe Smith, the Commonwealth gold medal winning weightlifter, talks about missing home comforts, being the baby of the group, and getting fired as she takes part in Time Crashers. The series can be seen on Channel 4 on Sunday evenings at 8pm from August 23rd.

Why did you sign up?

It’s not like anything I had ever dreamed of doing; nothing like this had ever crossed my path before, so I just thought, “What’s the worst that could happen?” I was just quite open to the new experience of it all and quite interested to find out what the past was like as well, so it sounded like a good idea.

What was your biggest concern going into the show?

It was more like just fear of the unknown. While it was an exciting prospect, it was terrifying at the same time. One thing was not having anyone around me that I knew as I was going into this with a bunch of strangers – we’d never even met at this point – and I knew I was going to miss my home comforts, like a shower in the morning and just having a change of clothes every day, stuff like that.

How did you feel about unplugging yourself from the 21st century?

It was kind of daunting, but in a way I thought it might be quite a nice break. I am kind of glued to my phone – as is everyone, I guess – so I did wonder how I was going to cope, but having everyone else in the same boat made it easier. It wasn’t as scary as if it had just been me.

Was it liberating not having to check your phone all the time?

It was! I told everyone I was going to be away and I wouldn’t be able to call, and I’m pretty sure that was the same for everyone else going into the show, but someone made the point that can you imagine if we’d actually done it with phones? I don’t think we would have got to know each other at all, and I don’t think we would have developed the strong bond that we developed throughout the show – we would have all just been sat there with our phones, googling each other.

What did you make of the other celebrities involved?

Everyone was really great – I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to do the experience with. I was the youngest by quite some way so it was quite nice that they were all parents because I kind of got a bit looked after, which was quite nice! I’ve known Greg for a while actually, being another sports person, so it was nice to chat with him and have him in there. Fern was really lovely, and she was like a mum to me which was nice.

Being a sports star, you have grit and determination. Did that help in these circumstances?

It’s interesting, because a lot of people said that I would find it easy because I have to push myself all the time, but to be honest I think I’ve really found it one of the hardest things I have ever done. Obviously there’s the determination that you need for training and stuff, but I probably don’t train as much as someone doing athletics or swimming, for example, recovery is equally as important so I spend as much time in the gym as I do out of it, and I know what I’m doing every day, I’ve got my programme, I know what to expect, I know how far to push myself and when to hold back when it hurts. This is a very different experience in that I didn’t know what to expect; every day would be a different adventure; we didn’t know where we were going to be or what we were going to be doing, or what our roles were. So it was just like you were being thrown the unexpected all the time, which to me is a bit weird, because I’ve obviously got a very set routine. So honestly, I don’t think the whole competitive sports person thing really did me any favours, to be honest.

What was your favourite era?

The last one, the Iron Age, was pretty cool – it was quite liberating in a way because we chose our own leaders. We had tasks that we had to complete, but it was quite nice not to have anyone standing over us to make sure we got things done for a certain time, tell us off quite a bit, it was nice.

Some of the celebs got punished quite a few times. Did you?

Yes, once or twice! One of the ones I got sacked from was when Louise and I were working together – I think she was a bad influence! We were in the Georgian era and we were in the kitchen together, we had been in the kitchen all week, we seemed to spend our lives in the kitchen and I think we’d just had enough. It was one of those where we didn’t really know what we were doing and we didn’t know what anything was in the kitchen, the recipes were all gobbledygook, so nothing was really working and we just didn’t have a clue, to be honest. We were just slacking off and having a bit of a giggle, and we were getting reprimanded for it all the time, we got told off quite badly at the end of that. I think while everyone else got ready to go out and have this celebration and festival or whatever, we had to go and wash up the kitchen and stuff while our friends were outside, which was depressing. The other one, I actually don’t know if you would call it getting the sack, it was one of those, “You can’t fire me, I quit. You can’t quit, I fired you!” kind of things. That was Edwardian, and I was a scullery maid, who was the lowest of the low; I was getting dumped on continuously, it was rubbish. The tipping point for me was having to pluck some pheasants. I’m not a vegetarian but it was just too gruesome for me, so I just kind of moped out of there and sat there for a couple of hours saying to our housekeeper, “I’m not going to pluck these pheasants, can’t I do something else, or “isn’t there another job I can do?” They said, “No, this is what you have to do.” I said before I got in there that I wasn’t going to do dead animals, so I stuck to my guns and said, “Well, it looks like you’re probably going to have to fire me then.”

Have you always struggled with authority, or was it just this experience that brought it out of you?

I know what I’m prepared to do, and no-one’s going to push me out of my comfort zone. But if there’s something I feel really strongly against doing, I’m just not going to do it – I’m pretty stubborn actually, I’m a Taurus, so I’m a stubborn bull! So it’s one of those.

What was your worst moment?

I think it was just being presented with the bucket of two dead pheasants. Not ideal.

And your best moment?

I think the best moment was at the very end when we had the burning man festival, and we were all stood there, the whole team, it was kind of a nice thing, a kind of reflective time, thinking how far we’d come. We were just sort of standing there, watching it burning, and there was something quite final about it. It’s something that will stay with me forever.

Has this made you realise how good we’ve got it in the 21st century?

Oh, entirely, yes! I think I’d have died, to be honest. Obviously it’s what you’re used to, but if you were born in the Edwardian period, and plucking pheasants because you were young and poor and it was a fact of life, then I guess you would have got on with it. I guess it’s the equivalent of doing a crappy commute or something now, it’s really quite unpleasant but hey, you just get on with it. But yes, I do appreciate the 21st century. Just having a comfortable bed to sleep on rather than a sack of hay, a shower every morning, even the food we had was disgusting. The thought of eating that day in, day out is just depressing. Knowing I can go to Tesco and grab a sandwich is quite reassuring.

Was it weird, plugging yourself back into the real world after being on the show?

Oh, God yes! I had to sort of wean myself back on slowly. I was obviously keen to catch up with everyone, but when I realised how many messages I had to reply to. I just messaged a few people here and there, but I found myself missing the old world and a bit of peace and quiet!

Courtesy of Channel 4

- Zoe Smith
- Time Crashers
- Channel 4

Written by: Ben Drummond
Aug 22nd, 2015, 4:53 pm

Images courtesy of Channel 4

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