Olympic boxing hopeful Lisa Whiteside gets a makeover
PUBLISHED: 21:12 15 August 2013 | UPDATED: 21:12 15 August 2013
Preston boxer Lisa Whiteside is on track to achieve her goal glory at the next Olympics
Among the many highlights for British Olympians at last summer’s Games in London was the gold medal won by boxer Nicola Adams. Her victory was a vindication of the long hours she put in to her training and gave a boost to the sport, but it has also helped – as Seb Coe promised the Games would – inspire the Olympians of the future.
One of those with a good chance of being on the plane to Rio in 2016 is 26-year-old Lisa Whiteside who has given up her job as a firearms officer with Lancashire police to pursue her Olympic dream.
The 26-year-old from Lostock Hall has recently joined the GB team and now trains with Adams and the other stars of London 2012. And although she only took up the sport a little over five years ago, Lisa has already won a silver medal at the European Championships and a bronze at last year’s World Championships and is ranked second in the world in the 57kg weight category.
‘When I do something I push myself to do the best I can,’ Lisa said. ‘When I was young I was into all sports and of all those I have done, boxing is the hardest in terms of the training. It’s all about self discipline and what you do yourself. It’s all down to me. That’s hard because it puts the pressure on but that’s good because I need that pressure to perform. Because I push myself I’m confident I’ll get to Rio. And once there, I’ll be confident of a medal.’
Lisa was one of four children brought up in a sporty household and first tried her hand at boxing with her elder brother’s punch bag in the garage. A keen young athlete and footballer, Lisa took up Thai boxing as a 16-year-old but after four years she wanted another challenge and stepped back into the boxing ring.
She had joined Lancashire Constabulary as a police community support officer and divided her time between working her way up to be a firearms officer and training hard in the gym.
She lost her first fight but that setback simply served to drive her on to greater efforts and she went on to win four national amateur titles and to be selected for the England squad.
Her first taste of international boxing came at the 2011 European Championships where, despite her lack of experience, she reached the final and missed out on the gold medal by just one point. She was then named in the squad for the World Championships in China where she battled her way to bronze.
Earlier this year Lisa added another bronze to her medal haul, competing in the 51kg category at a tournament in Poland and just won gold at the European Championships in Hungary - a victory she dedicated to her late father.
‘I’ve gone full time with the GB team. Before that I was a police officer, working shifts as a firearms officer and trying to fit my training in around that. It was a massive thing for me to give up work but my family and husband have been really understanding and very supportive.’
She now spends four days a week at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield training with Nicola Adams and other members of Team GB who competed in London last year.
‘The facilities and training with the GB team are amazing,’ she said. ‘I’m over in Sheffield four days a week. We weigh in at 7.30am we’re running at 7.45, then it’s breakfast, then strength sessions and weights, then dinner, then sparring and pad work sessions and sometimes there’s evening sessions too. I’ve been sparring with the lads to and when you’re doing that with Anthony Joshua (Olympic super heavyweight gold medallist) it can only help me. Hopefully, it will help me get to Rio in 2016, but before that we’ve got the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships, but Rio is the goal and I’m enjoying my journey.
‘I know I’ve got a lot to improve on – my technical ability, my strength and my speed, but now I’m training with the GB team that will happen and I need more experience internationally and I’m starting to get that too.’
And there’s little chance for Lisa to put her feet up when she’s back on this side of the Pennines, as she is expected to maintain her training regime at the Larches and Savick club in Preston.
But she took a break from her punishing schedule to enjoy some pampering at her sister, Danielle Gray’s salon in Withnell where Lisa was treated to a makeover to show Lancashire Life readers that female boxers can be glamorous.
As Danielle styled her hair and her nails and make-up were worked on, Lisa joked: ‘See? You can be a boxer and be girly. But I’m back in the gym soon, so this lot will have to come off again.’
Lisa spoke of the pressure of being a female sports star and role model. ‘I have a lot of young girls following me on Twitter and Facebook and I do a lot of talks as part of the Sportivate programme to encourage young people to get involved in sport.
‘I’ve been married for almost three years and we do want children but that has been put on hold until after the Olympics.
‘All athletes make sacrifices and females have to make more than the men but I would rather be able to tell my children they have an Olympian for a parent than talk about what might have been. Family is very important to me – we lost my dad Frank to cancer this year. He got to see me get on the GB team and that meant an awful lot to me.’
Mum Chris Gibbons added: ‘If Lisa does something she has to be the best, it doesn’t matter what it is. She always goes the extra mile.
‘When I’m there watching her, it’s not scary at all because I know she can do it. She’s amazing. When she steps into the ring she’s a different person. She’s not Lisa my daughter, she’s Lisa the boxer. And I’m her biggest fan.’
Lisa is a funded athlete with money from the lottery but going full time as a boxer meant taking a hefty pay cut and she is now seeking sponsors to enable her to continue with her bid for Olympic glory in Rio. If you’re interested in sponsoring Lisa, contact er via twitter at @LisaWhiteside
Lisa’s outfits for the shoot were provided by Butter Boutique in Chorley
Hair by Lisa’s sister Danielle Gray of Foster and Gray salon in Withnell
Make up by Katy Strickland of Butter Cream
Nails by Abi Wright