She may be small in stature, but Claire-Michelle Oldfield can certainly handle herself in a wrestling ring.
The Sheffielder recently claimed the Bellatrix British title after defeating Erin Angel by two falls to one at Epic Studios in Norwich.
Claire-Michelle, whose stage name is Violet O’Hara, told GrassRoots: “I cried in the corner of the ring when I won the belt. I got a standing ovation from the crowd.
“My legs went from underneath me and my hands were shaking. I couldn’t believe I had done it. I hope it is the start of something big for me.”
Standing at 4ft 11ins, Claire-Michelle is the smallest professional female wrestler in the UK.
“People are interested in me because of my height,” said the 24-year-old. “It is something I bring that is unique.
“I used to get bullied because of it. People said I was never going to make it and that I was too small. I would get abuse and people would laugh at me. Sometimes that gets you down. You’ve got to have thick skin.
“Hopefully winning this title will be a turning point and I’ve shown it doesn’t matter what size you are. If you work hard and put effort into everything you do, you can achieve anything.”
For various reasons, Claire-Michelle contemplated quitting the sport earlier this year. She said: “I kept picking up lots of injuries and I started to lose a few matches. Training became a bit of a chore and I didn’t feel I was getting a lot out of it. Other girls were starting to surpass me so I became quite disheartened. I felt like I was losing my mojo.”
A heart to heart talk with a fellow female wrestler persuaded Claire-Michelle to change her mind.
“I went down to Norwich to speak to Julia Hamer and she said she would be disappointed if I packed it in,” said Claire-Michelle. “She knocked some sense into me!”
It was only two years ago that Claire-Michelle, nicknamed ‘Pocket Princess’ due to her size, gave wrestling a go. She said: “I finished at drama school in Manchester when I was 22 and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.
“I originally wanted to be a stunt double for children but couldn’t afford the funding.
“I was looking for a job and was sent a message by a local wrestling promoter for a backstage interviewer job. They were also looking for a wrestler so they said come down to a training session and we will see what you’ve got. It has just gone on from there.”
So how much did Claire-Michelle know about wrestling? “Not a lot but wrestling has taken over my life now,” she said. “I watched it occasionally with my brother and dad when it was on terrestrial TV. My brother used to practice manoeuvres on me!”
Claire-Michelle dedicates 20-plus hours a week to training, travelling to Grimsby, Hull and Wakefield to hone her craft. She regularly competes in shows up and down the country, winning her first ever title at the Grimsby Wrestling Academy.
But there are disadvantages to jumping acrobatically off the top rope and being power bombed. Claire-Michelle has suffered numerous injuries, including breaking a few toes, nose, splitting a lip, spraining her foot and and hurting her shoulder.
“I see my bruises as part and parcel of the job,” she said. “It is something to be proud of.
“I know it seems ridiculous when you go to work with a black eye and you are proud of it but I am!”
To help make ends meet, Claire-Michelle works part-time as a housekeeper at the Northern General Hospital.
She said: “I scrub floors and clean equipment.”
As for the future, Claire-Michelle would love to crack America and become a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) superstar.
“That’s the ultimate goal,” she said. “If I ever got a chance to join WWE, I would definitely go.
“But right now I am just focusing on getting on some of the bigger shows in the UK. Hopefully I will be able to get to go abroad later on down the line.”
* Anyone interested in sponsoring Claire-Michelle contact: violet.o’firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @Lil_MissViolet; Facebook page: Violet O’Hara