PROUDLY flexing her biceps in the playground, national weightlifting champion Paula Phillips is pictured surrounded by inspired pupils.

But the amateur athlete was not a guest visitor at St Nicholas' Primary School in Marston - she is in fact the school's headteacher.

She brought her medal into work this week after winning a British title and qualifying for the European and world counterparts.

The 47-year-old mother-of-two discovered a natural flair for the male-dominated sport 16 months ago, and has already won all three contests she has entered.

On Saturday she won her biggest title yet, beating male and female contestants in her age and weight category at the British Masters Weightlifting competition, which is held for entrants over 35.

Carterton resident Mrs Phillips, who competed in the 45-50 category, said: "I find it empowering as a female to life a heavy weight. It's satisfying.

"My job is quite stressful and my mind is really busy - I can't do something like yoga as I just can't switch off, but weightlifting helps me really focus and unwind and get all the stresses of the day out.

"It means I go home nice and calm and chilled."

Mrs Phillips won the competition with the combined weight of 103 kilograms in two different lifts - the 'snatch' and the 'clean and jerk'.

The score was just shy of her personal best of 110 kilograms.

Her achievement has secured her a place at the IWF World Masters Weightlifting in Barcelona in August during the school holidays, but she will have to get permission from school governors if she is to take up her place at the European Masters Weightlifting contest in Budapest in June.

Mrs Phillips said she had never been sporty and has lost a significant amount of weight since starting her fitness journey.

The headteacher said: "I was trying to get fitter and healthier and somewhere along the way I fell in love with it. It's not a chore.

"I think that's the key - finding something you really like.

"I was a little bit late finding a sport I loved.

"I discovered weightlifting through CrossFit and found out I was quite good at it."

CrossFit is a branded fitness course that incorporates a host of athletic sports including powerlifting and Olympic-style weightlifting.

Mrs Phillips discovered the classes at The Athlete Centre in Osney Mead, West Oxford, where she trains five to six times a week.

Asked how she squeezes training into a busy headteacher's schedule, she said she prefers to go after work and head home a little later rather than sit in A40 traffic at rush hour.

The educator had already won two regional weightlifting competitions and was tipped as the favourite to win on Saturday.

She encouraged other women to try out weightlifting and not to think of it as a men-only sport.