Episode 23 - Chris Murray

Commonwealth Gold winning weightlifter

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Summary intro

Chris Murray is a Commonwealth Games gold medalist and multiple British record holder in weightlifting. He chats with Marcus about what it takes to be a champion weightlifter, what the future holds for him, and his Scottish connections.


[Music] Hello, I’m Marcus Railton, and this is the Scotscare podcast. Scotscare is the only charity dedicated to helping disadvantaged Scots in London through a range of support, including mental health therapy, financial grants, advocacy, sheltered housing for older Scots, job coaching, social events, befriending, and support for children and families. The charity has been running for 400 years to help break the cycle of poverty experienced by some Scots in London.

In this series of the Scotscare podcast, I’ll be chatting with celebrities and supporters of the charity who have forged a life, often away from Scotland, and discussing the ups and downs that can bring.

This week on the podcast is Commonwealth gold medalist in weightlifting Chris Murray chatting to Chris was a delight we spoke about his dad who used to Sprint with Olympic champion Alan Wales we chatted about how Chris arrived that weightlifting through football rugby and top level diving with the likes of Tom Daly Chris was very honest about the sacrifices he has had to make and still makes to be an elite athlete in a somewhat underfunded sport but what struck me most about this modest 24 year old was his maturity and his Drive here’s Chris Murray on the scotscare podcast [Music]

Scott’s care for Scots in London in need of support Financial practical or emotional help.

Hi Chris

Hi Marcus how are you?

I’m good thanks.
Thanks for doing this for us.
No problem at all.
Are you fighting fit at the moment I heard from a contact of mine at your gym you might not be a hundred percent.

No I think I’ve popped your rib unfortunately on Monday so we’re uh we’re a little sore today I’ve seen the Physio and I’ve got massage tomorrow to try and alleviate some of that um and get me on the mend I’m meant to be competing in Germany this this Saturday but um as the hours tick on and I don’t feel any better it’s looking less and less than uh likely that that will be happening

What does that mean, do you mean like it pops out a place and is that because of the extreme weights
you’re putting on it um I’m gonna butcher this but from what the physio said there was a
your rib at the back is connected by either a ligament or or a tendon or
something and there’s just a little pop there so nothing snaps it’s nothing too bad but that kind of um
that signal causes everything to uh to tense up and uh the muscles around it in
order to protect it um and with that it means the rib doesn’t move as freely so then when I
move my body because the ribs don’t necessarily move with it
um the bones that connect the rib to the uh to the vertebrae just keep uh
touching or uh or it’s the nerves or something around that that just causes quite a bit of a discomfort so it kind
of describes it as a as a paper cut so one of those injuries that in the grand scheme of things isn’t that bad it’s not
going to cause any long-lasting injuries or uh or or take loads of time to rehab
but the pain that amounts from it is uh is pretty severe so um yeah I’m a bit
I’m a bit uh uncomfortable at the moment should I say and are you limited by what you can take for that because you are a
competing athlete I presume you can’t just fill yourself with a whole lot of painkillers
um I’ve I’ve been taking a bit of ibuprofen to try and relax some of the muscles and uh and the bit of
paracetamol for it as well but um I think the main thing for me with especially the the potential of
competing at the weekend I don’t want to take too many painkillers um
to almost numb it I want to know what sort of shape I’m in to make sure that
um yes I can’t do any more damage but I need to know whether it’s actually getting better or whether it’s getting
better just because I’m taking a a load of painkillers and I can’t feel it if that makes sense yeah but what does what
does that mean for you then if you’re you know as a uh are you professional or are you amateur which I’m never too sure
I don’t think there are very many professional weight lifters out there so um but you if you went to the Olympics
you’d still you have to be an amateur don’t you I think there’s there’s some rules around that because I to be honest I’m
not entirely sure because I think some of the NBA players nowadays are doing some some competing in the Olympics but
essentially I work part-time in order to fund my weightlifting
um and then I’ve got a few sponsors who um who who pay me in exchange for social
media posts and stuff like that and then uh this competition that I’m lifting in
in Germany is for a for weightlifting team so they they run like a lifting League they call it the uh the
Bundesliga out there um it’s all for weightlifting and they’ll pay me to go out um and pay me to lift
um in order for them to win their matches or perform well at those matches so Chris without being too nosy you know
you could tell me to go away if you’re like what happens if you do that you know you you tweak your rib you can’t go
out do they say oh well this is not going to be a Payday for you then essentially yeah so um
I get paid per it’s it’s done on a point system so I get paid for how many points
that I make or lift um I’ve messaged obviously with such short
notice I messaged them on uh on Tuesday saying look I’m unsure what shape I’m
gonna be in uh whether I’m going to be able to lift as much as you need me to in order to win the match
um and they’d come back to me they say well we pay for your flight we paid for your hotel um so if you want to come out and see
how it is gray so they’re being quite accommodating with it I don’t think they’re too too annoy I mean injuries
happen but um in terms of payment um if I don’t lift I won’t get paid so
um luckily with my other job and my sponsors I I don’t rely on this money um but obviously it’s uh very nice to
have um and you know that would definitely help um I’m not I’m investing the money in
the Physio and the massage now to try and get me healthy so I can go out and lift but uh if I can’t it’s not it’s not
the end of the world do you know what I wouldn’t mind talking a bit more about that later about the kind of funding and what sports are well funded and what
sports are poorly funded but let’s kind of go back to the beginning because where were you brought up because your
dad’s Scottish isn’t he yep yeah my dad’s got her she was uh born and raised in uh in Edinburgh and Portobello
um and both my brothers were uh were born there before he moved down to
England for for work and I was I was born in Oxford um
before and then we moved around quite a bit for his work so most of my growing
up was in uh Gloucester and then uh and then Surrey and am I right and thinking
your dad was a pretty high profile athlete as well he was a sprinter yes yeah yeah so he used to he used to do a
bit of sprinting um back in the day trained with um Alan and and Margo Wells up in up in Scotland
um he was my Boyhood hero he won gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympics I remember I
thought you were going to say my dad I was like I’m sure he’s not he’s a good guy as well
but uh no Alan Alan Wells is a pretty phenomenal athlete and uh it’s it’s
crazy how small the world is actually because him and um and his and his
partner Margot um lived uh not too far away from us just by pure chance when we were over in uh
Guildford so when I was uh growing up and doing all all other sports I used to
do a bit of Athletics as well and I’d go down to the track and I’d I’d see her there so it’s crazy how uh you know this
this big whole world and country that we’re in um and yeah these two people just well
the most important thing is can you do a convincing Scottish accent yeah no I’m
not even I’m not even gonna try I can’t take it too seriously um yeah my I’ve got three kids and my my
daughter she’s four and then my my middle boy Refuge just turned 10 and
Rafe was just awful he sounds I think I’ve said this before he says that some kind of American leprechaun when she’s
gonna try to take the Mickey out of me but Noah who’s he’s 13 going to be 14 shortly he can do it he like and I think
it’s because I just spend most of my life shouting at them he’s got it you know because I was saying to another day
can you see purple burglar alarm and he could do it he kind of you know a little bit Aberdeen but he gets it
that’s uh it’s a good skill to have to be honest accent so they’re always quite fun to crack out a party but
unfortunately uh no no good on my end no good when you were a bit younger you were
also into your Athletics but you’re also into diving as well yes yes are you are
you how did that come about because somebody said to me that oh ask Chris about the diving because you are proper
National level alongside Tom Daly oh well I’m not sure whether I’d go that far but um
I I do for uh gosh about five six years now I think
um and just because we we had a a pool with with diving boards um in Guildford
and when we moved you know I’d never seen it before so I was quite interested and I think that was around the same
time as Tom Daly was becoming quite a you know a a household name
um so I was really really wanted to give it a go I really wanted to try and yeah it worked up to about
um National age group standard and wanna one of bronze medal on the on the one
meter springboard um which uh was probably my highest achievement and after that I I you know
I loved it I was uh I had the power but my flexibility just wasn’t really there
and I was investing a lot of time and I knew I was never going to get to the
standard that I wanted to get to I I’ve always wanted to be a you know Elite level athlete and compete
at the highest level whether that’s the Olympics whether it’s when I was playing rugby to play in the Premiership and stuff like that but um I just knew I
wasn’t going to get there so I think at that point I was doing diving rugby and
then starting my weightlifting and I just knew I can’t keep investing all this time into all these Sports
especially around exams as well so um gave up gave up uh gave up diving
is there anything I don’t mean this flippingly Chris is there any sport that you’re not good at or are you just kind of are you gonna get a genetically
talented that way if you you know whether it’s rugby or football or basketball can you just kind of turn your hand to it
um I am no good at uh uh coordination or
racket Sports coordinational Rocket Sports um my catching and and uh and stuff like
that isn’t isn’t that great I think I’ve always from my dad I think I’ve been quite quite powerful and quite fast
which lends its hand to quite a few um game sports like rugby and and
football and and sports like that but I think as as people and my competitors
started to get a bit more technical um and and this and the sport wasn’t just you know who’s the fastest who’s
the strongest it it started relying a bit more on skill I think that’s where I started to fall down or lose my Edge and
started to realize okay maybe I’m not quite Built For This I think rugby was was maybe one of the sports where I
thought I could have gone somewhere but I’m only uh I’m five six and 80 kilos
like I’m not exactly the biggest uh biggest fan of the pitch and was the game becoming so physical again I knew I
probably wasn’t gonna gonna make it there so uh well also I could see why you might not want one of my friend’s Sons he does
doodle and he’s he wants to go to the Olympics that’s his thing he definitely wants to go to the Olympics and that’s
that’s he’s just got a great mindset and I thought I was thinking Stan you might go to the Olympics but he’s he was also
doing well in rugby but he’s giving up the rugby because he was worried at one point he would get cluttered and injured
and that would affect it that would affect him on the Judo uh on the Judo mat it was something that I had to do as
well quitting rugby um with a few more years left of um of Schoolboy rugby left I I stopped
playing which looking back on it I’m I’m sad I never got to play first team rugby
but um equally like a broken finger or you know uh dead leg or something that
that takes you out of training for a week to four weeks you know it’s just not worth the risk and with rugby when
there’s so many moving parts and so much out of your control there is that higher
injury uh risk factor and it’s just it’s just not well worth it when you’ve got other Ambitions in other sports
did you know Scott’s care can help second and even third generation Scots break the cycle of deprivation key
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now what brought you to the attention of most people was Birmingham winning the the gold medal at the Commonwealth goal
the Commonwealth Games last year when you went into this were you and your
team thinking we could do this or was it a surprise to you was there any point throughout the competition you think
I’ve got this um I think going going into the competition
I knew I was in a good position there were about um on the rankings there were about five
of us within a couple of kilos so I knew it was incredibly tight um I knew that um
I could have the best day of my life and I could still walk away without a medal I think the thing that helped me was you
know for the last four years everything has been building towards that one competition and I’ve never felt more
prepared um like walking to the way in that day I felt so confident in the fact that
whatever my coaches put on the bar I was going to make um
and to be honest like I didn’t really keep an eye on what was going on during the during the competition I just lifted
what they told me to lift and just waited and um yeah it was enough I would
I think the list that I did I knew I was capable of doing
and I’m not shocked at how I performed it’s not like I pulled out some crazy 10 kilo PB but um
the result you know like I said it could have gone it could have gone either way and there were a few guys who put
weights on the bar to beat me and and narrowly missed out so there really wasn’t much in it between first and
first and third place so it’s interesting you’re seeing that when you walked out there you thought you know
today is going to be a good day you know how can you put a percentage on that when you’re out there
and you’re in this environment and the adrenaline’s pumping you know can you say I am going to lift more than if I
was just on my own in the gym you know does it give you an edge when there’s a crowd and you know it’s an event oh 100
100 I think I think it’s just that the build up to it being a home games and
being uh I mean being a games in general but also being a home games like you you spend a lot of time thinking about it
preparing for it um doing everything you can to make sure you’re as fresh as possible on the day
and then the crowd as well um just so loud um and so supportive and they and they
want you to do it well they want you to lift the weights and um you can definitely feel that
um that atmosphere and that competition was something that you know I’ve never experienced before and it really was
something that uh that helped helped me get over the line and and lift all those
lift all my uh attempts but you know what Chris I watched you in Birmingham
and I I’m not phenomenally clever but you know I can grasp most sports and I
thought weightlifting was actually simpler than it is it’s actually quite Technical and I and when I was watching
you I was thinking is this a barrier to entry for people is this because it does
rules and regulations I couldn’t get my head round I couldn’t I thought what was happening here you know and I just wonder whether things need to be
simplified a little bit to get new people into the sport it’s definitely something that’s come up
a lot um the press out rule it should be a fairly simple in the sense that the the
bar must go to overhead in one movement or if you’re doing the clean and jerk it’s from the shoulders to overhead and
one movement and with that the elbows shouldn’t Bend and as I say that now it seems fairly
simple yeah the issue is there’s an ambiguity to it with um
the the referees look at it and they might see the elbow band they might not
and then you add in the uh extra complexity of having a jury on top of
the referees which then the referees can deem it a good lift or a bad lift and
then the jury can overturn it and I think what confuses people is you know a lift will get given as a good list and
then two seconds later it’s a no lift for no obvious reason
um I think that’s what gives that’s what I didn’t get because at that point I was thinking I don’t know what’s going on here
I think that’s where we commentating is really important but
also some of the visual aids like um like in football and VAR or rugby with
their um TMO you know you’ve got someone talking it through you you and you can
hear the referees talking to each other and saying you know this is why we think it’s this or
whereas in weightlifting it’s it’s normally quite a bit of quiet and
again because there’s so much ambiguity you know what’s the difference between a
press out and a wobble or shoulder movement versus elbow movement and yeah it’s uh it’s not as clear cut as oh yeah
the ball went forward that’s a knock on or yeah that person’s offside um and it just allows for a lot of human
error and a lot of inconsistencies in the in the judging which then as a spectator or a new spectator it makes it
very difficult to understand what the rule actually is when you know someone can an infraction can look the exact
same but one can get given as a good lift and one gets given as a as a no lift nice I want to talk to you about your
training you know and your lifting training because you know you’re at the absolute top of your game so if you were playing for Chelsea you’d you’d have
your own private training ground and you turn up in your Maserati and you know you build wonderfully pampered but
you’re training at a public gym alongside the public and
I isn’t that difficult for you when you’re not when you’ve got to rock up there on your own do your training stay
disciplined and you know there’s people like me just trying to do some sit-ups beside you is that a difficult
environment to to get tuned into it can and it can’t be I think
um it definitely depends on the Outlook that you have um quite lucky that this isn’t just some
generic gym it’s it’s I’m training at Locker 27 which has specific weightlifting platforms and all the
right care and is it is a really good base to train with with people who more often than not know the geometica
to you know maybe not walk right in front of you after lifting or close to
you after lifting um so that does help but um
look it would be great if um British weightlifting had a National Training
Center where everyone came and trained and they looked after us with food and
Physio and stuff like that but we don’t have the money for that yeah um and it’s making the best out of the
situation that we’ve got like I’m very lucky in the sense that the gym is a two
minute walk away there’s a physio on site a sports masseuse on site and I have all the the the support network
necessary in my own environment to help support me as much as possible but um
I do think if there was a bit more of a centralized system and a bit more money in it you know I think GB weightlifting
as a whole would be doing I mean I mean we are doing amazingly well the women are doing great things on the
international stage but um thing with a bit more funding a bit more of a centralized program uh we could be doing
we could be doing even better did you notice a difference was there an overnight difference for you from a kind
of Lifestyle point of view when you won gold at the Commonwealth Games did it make your life financially easier to or
were you able to breathe just a bit easier because you’re not thinking I’m up against it all the time now and to be
honest there’s there’s been very little change between now and winning the
Commonwealth Games I mean but you’re not able to say when you when you’re looking around for a sponsor
when will people do people take your phone call now when you say it’s Chris Murray the Commonwealth gold medalist
um not you know what it hasn’t opened as many doors as I would have liked I think in terms of
new sponsors since um poster games I’ve I’ve gained one new
sponsor and I’ve I’ve currently got three um so just kind of put that into
perspective is that ever not is it ever difficult to stay positive about that do
you think you know you’re 23 you’re very talented you you could go anywhere in your life
is there any point you just think oh you know what I don’t need this hardship it’s
um do you know what and especially what moments like at the moment where you know you’re injured and
uh you know I’m this is an injury like I said it’s not as severe but it’s definitely affecting my day-to-day
um like walking around like is it worth putting my body through this when
you know like like you mentioned football like I’m not making a living or a wage off of this if anything it’s uh it’s making my
life harder by uh you know maybe having less free time to spend with friends or
spending more money on massage and Physio and and nutritionist out of my own pocket yeah but um
you know I’m not do I’m not doing this sport for the fame or the money
I’m doing it because I enjoy it I had the goal that I wanted to go and win the Commonwealth Games and I did it and that
was the only reason why I went and did it I wasn’t doing it because I knew that oh if I win the come up games my life’s
gonna change and I kind of had that approach going into it which I think helped me stay calm like it was a big
event and there was every reason for me to get um you know overwhelmed yeah but which
and it almost sounds um a bit depressing saying it but my whole output was like no one really
cares if you do well or doesn’t like weightlifting isn’t this um sport that’s
constantly on the news no one’s gonna be like oh everyone’s expecting Chris Murray to do wait no well no one knew
who I was before the event there were no expectations the only expectations I was putting on myself and I knew if I’ve
done everything I can if I go out and do my best that’s all I can do and I think that’s what helped me perform
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children and adults bypassing NHS waiting lists if you’re a low-income Scot in London
and could use the help get in touch with us you’re making tough sacrifices I spoke
to Hannah Rankin the world champion boxer um a couple of months ago and she she was talking about how there’s more money
in women’s boxing now but for a long time there was there was Nixon nothing she couldn’t get sponsors because as
soon as her her trainer would phone up and say it’s Hannah Rankin the and as soon as they mentioned women’s box and
they say oh no we’re not particularly interested but the sacrifice she was talking about is when she goes into like
a 12-week camp for a pre-fight camp everything gets Stripped Away you know
she has to be so disciplined she can’t have a sneaky Pizza on a Friday night and I just I wonder about how much
you’ve given up at 23 when and I’m not saying this is a great thing but a lot of your mates are probably out down the
pub having a good time not really thinking about what they’re eating or drinking whereas it’s probably on your
mind 24 7. yeah I think sacrifice is an interesting word that we use
um I think if you’re talking about sacrifices I think what I’ve maybe
sacrificed is you know I probably haven’t traveled as much or gone as many holidays in the
last couple years because I can’t control where I go training or uh or if there’s going to be a gym or
okay let’s go on this holiday but it’s got to be near a gym and then you end up almost
sacrificing that holiday aspect but like I said I I love training um I I’m not exactly a big drinker I
don’t I don’t like to party as much so this idea of missing out on all these
nights out with friends like to be honest I wouldn’t have been having that much fun anyway so um I don’t really view it as that that big of a sacrifice
but it’s like it’s like I said earlier I’ve had this goal that I want to
go and Achieve these things and that’s what I’m gonna do and if I didn’t
want to do it if if there were things that I’d rather do I do them I think that’s the Outlook
I’ve I’ve got is weightlifting is never going to be um at the detriment of my life
because the goals that I want to achieve outweigh this um this short satisfaction of you know
maybe spending a week on the beach or or going out one night with a bunch of
friends this um when I sit down and set a goal I look at what my
my days are going to look like and these these days are going to be the same for the next well two years up into the
Olympic Games and another four years and up until the next Commonwealth Games and am I happy with my days looking like
this and I am and in that way it’s not a sacrifice if I if I look to these days
and I went God I really don’t want to do this like that sounds hard can I really do this for the next four years
I would I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing and what did you when you went to the the world championships and was
overall you placed 14th am I right oh gosh uh yeah I think I think you are
yeah I think because one was one event was 13th and the other one was 17th so I I don’t know whether they do it get a
mean average or I just wondered was that a step up when you were competing a lot against the Eastern Europeans and how
did you feel did you think 14th or was that where you expected or were you disappointed did you want to get higher
well obviously you want to get higher with the with the Commonwealth Games 2022 was a tough year as in competition
wise it was very full-on um we had the Commonwealth we had Europeans
then a month later um the Commonwealth Games and then a
month later we had European under 23s and then the world’s a couple months after that so it was a long time to kind
of stay at the top of my top of my game and not definitely holding on with a few niggles and a few bits that I probably
could have done with addressing beforehand I didn’t perform as well as I could have done
um I think I only made uh three out of six lifts which you know in order to be
a top performer you’ve really got to be making five or or ideally six um so I know I left a few um
a few kilos on the platform it’s very similar to um you know being a golfer and two putting as opposed to you know
one Parts it’s like not executing as well as I could have done yeah um but that was my first senior World
Championships um I’ve been selected for a few in the past but with covid and funding issues I
hadn’t been able to go so it was a great opportunity to go um my mum is it was the World
Championships were held in Colombia and my mum is um Colombian so it was great to have some family out there watching
as well so because overall it’s a really good experience um I would have loved to have done a little bit better but I know
um come next year with the with the next World Champion or should I say this year um with the World Championships I know
I’ve learned on what I’ve um the mistakes that I’ve made that it’s a less competition heavy schedule this year so
hopefully we I’d love to see see me break into that that top 10
um in the world and and then just build on from there year on year you’re very pragmatic Chris do you ever get really I
was thinking I wasn’t like because are you 23 am I right in thinking that I’m actually 24 I turned 24 on uh on Sunday
oh happy belated birthday thank you but you know I I don’t think at 24 hours as pragmatic as you I think I was still
kind of frustrated and you know Angry Young Man syndrome I think you deal with you deal with like not performing very
well you know you’re kind of like right how can I solve this how can I how can I move forward and is is there an an
Optimum age for weightlifting is it like 27 28 and and then what is your top
outer the optimum is is a little bit later you’re looking at around yeah 28
um closing in on your 30s it’s um it’s a difficult one to manage because as a strength sport
um you know it takes time to acquire strength now that I’ve got the technique near enough
um sort of it’s just all about just getting as strong as possible and that comes with time um the difficulty that you have with
that is as you get older and you’re pushing your body to those limits you are more prone to injuries
and it’s uh it’s it’s doing all those little things it’s booking in those regular physio sessions and massage and
doing your accessories that you need to do in order to keep all the little muscles happy and mobility and
stretching and stuff like that but um in terms of in bowing out it’s it’s really
as long as I can go where you know financially I’m in a good position where I can carry on training and I don’t have
to worry about bills or stuff or worry about getting a a full-time job in order
to train as well um as long as I can continue to train
and be healthy and not have to worry about my financials I’ll carry on going
as long as possible but there does come that point where you start thinking maybe maybe it’s time for
a change of career or um or even just starting a career really which has been
on my mind a couple of times um I think going back onto what we’re talking about about sacrifices like I’ve
always been quite a driven individual um I’m looking forward to
you know entering that um that uh that work the Working World and
and trying to be the best uh employee and as possible and at the moment we’re
training you know I can’t dedicate the time to a to a proper career but it is something that I think I would really
enjoy and I’m having to put on the back burner until after this uh career in
weightlifting has finished to um to start doing that so I don’t know it’s a
we’ll see we’ll take each year as it comes I think there’s a few goals that I want to go back to back at the
Commonwealth game so we’ll definitely be weightlifting for another four years um and then after that we’ll we’ll see
uh we’ll see what’s what’s possible what the what the financials are saying and whether I do want to just start
um start living life in the real world should I say look I think you’ve got a
long positive road ahead of you in the world of lifting Chris thanks for joining us on the on the Scott’s care
podcast today it’s been a real pleasure chatting to you oh thank you I’ve really enjoyed it speak to you soon daddy bye see you later bye social isolation is a
growing and often unseen problem in big cities like London Scots cares leather buddies program
matches a scotscare volunteer with a client in need of company for a weekly chat to help build back connections if
you think you’re on your own in London Scott’s care can change that don’t suffer in silence talk to us at info
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Chris Murray

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