This week Team Scotland weightlifter Louise Mather describes her journey to the Commonwealth Games which started as a passion for crossfit only a few years ago.
When Scottish Women in Sport approached me to write an article my first thought was that I have nothing to write about. I have arrived in the sport of weightlifting through a random stream of events and circumstances and if you had told me two years ago that I would be preparing for Glasgow 2014 I probably would have laughed in your face.
Sport has always been an important part of my life; I grew up playing football and was convinced that I was going to play for Scotland. I was a difficult child (my mum might phrase it as ‘nightmare child’), I was one of the kids who did everything to avoid going to school, ran away, hid in trees, faked serious illnesses I had seen on the TV (I’m still not allowed to watch Casualty). That was until I had my first sports day, my first proper sports day, i.e. no egg and spoons in sight. I can remember being in P7 and looking down the start line of my first ever 100m and thinking to myself that I could probably beat everyone here (it was a small class) and then when the gun went off, I slipped and fell over and had no idea what to do next, so I just got up and ran as fast as I could and won. That was it, I won a small trophy at the end of the day after all the other events and it was the first time I’d won anything.
I think from then on sport was a source of self confidence for me until I left University quite a few years later, I found that I was missing something but couldn’t figure it out. Looking back I think I missed being good at something. I tried the standard gym routines, but couldn’t stick to them, I’m not really built for distance running and just didn’t know how other people could feel such stress release from it. Then I was introduced to the world of Crossfit, at that time there was only the gyms in the UK operating so I was in a yoga studio at the back of the gym with bodypump plastic weights. This led me into the world of strength training, so for a year or so I was squatting, pressing and deadlifting before work. I trained with some amazing people through this year who still continue to inspire me. I swallowed as much information from the Internet as I could, it was the best fun I’d ever had ‘working out.’ I think I had grown up with a perception that to be fit was to be able to run for a long period of time and be super skinny doing it, suddenly I was finding out that there are a million ways to be fit and healthy and being a marathon runner wasn’t the only way.
So now I knew what a kilo was, I bought tickets for my sister’s birthday to see some weightlifting at the Olympics in London, that was it, I had found my new quest. Weightlifting is an amazing sport, there’s a reason people dedicate their lives to it. It’s not just brute strength, although that helps, there are so many more details, timing, positions, stability, mental strength. You find out so much about yourself, whether you really believe in yourself, where your actual limits are and where you willing to push through or quit. There have been so many moments where I’ve surprised myself and I’ve seen other people surpass what they thought they were capable of. I had an incident at the British Championships this year where all I needed was one clean and jerk for a silver medal, after missing my first two attempts (you get 3 attempts for both the Snatch and Clean and Jerk and the combination of the two highest successful attempts combines to give you your total) I knew that my 3rd attempt was going to be hard, partly because you only get a little rest between each lift if you’ve failed if no other competitors are trying the same weight and also because after two fails your head is filled with really negative thoughts. It was slipping at the start line again. After the most horrific clean you’ve ever seen the only thing I could think with the weight on my shoulders before the jerk was ‘just try really hard, that’s it, you might have totally screwed it, but today isn’t the day you fail this so just try’ and it went up and I got my silver. Had you asked me to place a bet on myself I would have bet £1000 that I would have missed that attempt, it’s probably my favourite lift I’ve ever made even though it was below my PB but I learnt a significant amount about myself in those split seconds and it carries over into everything.
Getting to compete in Glasgow 2014 has been the focus of the last year and a half for me, I can’t think of a better competition for a Glaswegian. Weightlifting is an individual sport but I have had such great people with me, my coach, my training partner, my team mates, my friends and family have been unbelievable and relentless in their support and I would be nowhere without them, so I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like having a auditorium full of people showing their support in the very vocal way that only Scottish people do. Also, it finally means I get that Scotland strip I’ve always wanted, even if it’s made of spandex.