There aren't many women in the world who can beat me in a race, but when I was at Loughborough I considered it a privilege to be beaten by my team mate and training partner Lisa Dobriskey. I would put emphasis on the fact that she was a 800/1500m runner and I preferred the longer distances, but every winter for six years we would pull each other through the sessions and base training, smashing out 6 x 5mins on the track or charging up and down Beacon Hill.
Training with Lisa was like training with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Off the track she is quite possibility the nicest person in the world, always smiling, always chatty, always complimentary, but during competition she has the sharp focus and determination that makes her dangerous. Very dangerous. She wants to beat you, make no mistake. The top guys were scared of Lisa, knowing that if they were having a bad day she would be nipping at their heels whereas I was just happy keeping up with her, watching the tell-tale bobbing ponytail bounce off her shoulders as we carved out bend after bend, rep after rep.
Being a Dobriskey fan is a hard life, one full of emotions, both high and low.
Here are my memories.
Commonwealth Games 2006
Lisa was a big rank outsider, the up and coming potential but not the race winner. That was until she charged off the final bend in Melbourne and kicked hard for the line leaving behind a trail of competitors in her wake. The world woke up to Lisa Dobriskey and I remember sitting at University watching her on TV with Rich Warburton and Rich Belton screaming at the screen. We went to breakfast still buzzing.
Olympic Games 2008
Lisa's preparation for Beijing was far from ideal, an early season injury left her playing catch up, but just before she left Frank Baddick and Rob Whittle towed her round to a 4min 1500m clocking in Stretford. In the final she came onto the final lap in sixth, moved up with Sharron Rowbury from the USA and used her kick for home, but it was too late, she finished fourth. I watched the race sitting on my living room floor, rocked back with my hands over my face. I looked up and saw Lisa doing exactly the same. I shed a tear but was still delighted for her incredible display.
My fondest memory was the January of 2008 leading into Beijing. Lisa had been injured the previous autumn and was just beginning to get back into good shape and I was in a good run of form. It was a cold dark night on Beacon Road where we did a 900m uphill effort and cruised back down, usually five or six repetitions. Rep four came and went and I was ahead of Lisa in a group of guys so I dropped back on the recovery to give her some assistance. Half way up the fifth rep she was breathing heavily, really heavily, but Lisa doesn't give in and I wasn't going to let her. "Come on Lise, think of Beijing" I shouted. She surged again, getting into my slipstream before kicking over the top of the hill together. We strode down the hill in silence and went for it again. No words were said, we knew what we had to do. It hurt like hell, but that night we beat the hill into submission.
World Championships 2009
Some athletes in Britain were suggesting that Lisa shouldn't have gone to Berlin for the World Championships, that she hadn't shown the sort of form as she had done going into Beijing. I told them to wait and see. Sure enough she had another great race in the final, finishing third, just 0.01secs behind silver... and then the gold medallist was disqualified for pushing. Lisa had a world silver medal. I followed the race online via the BBC as I covered a race in Japan. I went to bed a happy man. Beijing made her stronger and now the whole world knows Lisa Dobriskey's name.
Who knows what next year's Commonwealth Games or the Olympics in 2012 will bring, but every time I step onto the track in Vancouver I wish Lisa was there with me. Every time I kick for home I imagine she's alongside me, pushing me to the line. Every time the going gets tough I think about how hard I used to work to try and stay ahead of the only girl in Loughborough who could show me a clean pair of heels.
Here's to you Lisa, you legend.
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