When her name is mentioned to your average sports enthusiast, they may think of her as the ‘nearly girl’ of the track, the unlucky athlete who just misses out on the medals in major championships time and time again and whose television appearances seem littered with rollercoaster emotions; but to the hard-core athletics aficionados, Lisa Dobriskey is no longer the bridesmaid of the track, writes Nicola Bamford.
Quickly establishing herself as a hot contender for world athletics’ leading lady over the metric mile, Dobriskey is now - quite literally - finally the bride; as the 26-year-old Loughborough-based 1500m specialist recently married (Athens 2000 GB 800m representative; Ricky Soos) and is set to capitalise on her superb World 1500m silver-medal-winning performance from last summer.
The speedy pair wed in Loughborough last month with their coach and training partners in attendance, and Dobriskey intends to retain her surname so as to “retain the family name until at least after 2012.”
Explaining that the Christmas period was merely a recuperation phase, the newly-wed; who combined her honeymoon in Italy with low-intensity training, continued: “the easier phase tied in perfectly. We went to Venice then Verona and then to Toronto in the mountains; though we both ended up with colds but it didn’t disrupt anything.”
Describing the relationship with the man she met whilst competing on the Great Britain junior team at the 2002 World junior Championships in Jamaica, Dobriskey explained: “We’re such opposites – I’m obsessive and he’s so chilled and laid-back. His relaxed attitude balances me out so it works well. Our days are busy with sessions, core, pre-hab and media engagements.”
Busy she must be, as the George Gandy-coached runner bounced back from a superb, yet devastating fourth-place finish in the 2008 Olympic final to construct a stunning 2009 campaign and breakthrough year. Battling through an injury-ravaged winter and spring with stress fractures, Dobriskey slowly regained her fitness and although she raced sparingly in lead-up to the Worlds, the Kent-born athlete shone in the Berlin final last August.
In a dramatic race shrouded with controversy, she was upgraded to the silver medal after Spanish athlete; Natalia Rodriguez was disqualified for blatant pushing at 200m to go in which the favourite for gold; Gelete Burka of Ethiopia was the victim of a fall. Dobriskey missed the victory and World title by a mere one-one-hundreth of second. Heart-breaking you may think but it has evidently made the Loughborough University graduate uber-confident and determined for more silverware.
The self-confessed worrier discussed her Berlin experience: “It was such an anti-climax, as the crowd were booing and I couldn’t do a lap of honour - I really wanted to, especially after Beijing. George and I were sat in the dining hall after the race, not knowing whether to be happy – it was so surreal and a flat feeling, as I didn’t know what colour medal I’d get.”
Too exhausted to celebrate her silver medal, Dobriskey continued: “It was such a long week of all the rounds so it was mentally tough to stay focused.”
The ‘new’ Lisa
Accused for making tactical misjudgements in the past, Dobriskey – who beat your writer into third (convincingly) in a regional university race back in 2004 - has; akin to her elegant running style, come on leaps and bounds since placing tenth in the 2007 World semi-final.
Perhaps the so-called ‘poor tactics’ was mere under-confidence – something the tall runner has certainly rectified, as Dobriskey capped off the year with a blistering 3:59.50 for the 1500m; placing her second on the UK All-Time lists behind former double-Olympic Champion; Dame Kelly Homes.
“To think how the year started, being all doom and gloom and depressing, it was a brilliant year,” said the evident ‘new’ Lisa. It was a stressful winter but I learnt you don’t have to train like a bull at the gate all the time. To run under four-minutes and get the silver was all to do with my confidence change; I was no longer scared of underperforming – I was more aggressive and believed I belonged there; I so desperately wanted a medal.”
With medals comes media attention, fame, fortune and pressure but Dobriskey “tries really hard to take things in my stride. I worry things will go wrong all the time so I don’t get too big for my boots. Sometimes successful athletes can forget the hard work that got them there. George keeps my feet on the ground so life hasn’t changed.”
Supporting her every step of the way, was Dobriskey’s coach and support network. On Gandy she explains: “He’s fantastic, I trust him so, so much, as he knows me so well – he really relates to me. He’s great at getting me to peak at the right time and we’ve got a really nice group of girls in the training group.”
Fortunately, their home training ground now doubles as the national performance centre for endurance; allowing regular access to top indoor alternate training facilities in order to steer clear of the injury plague which has so often blighted this talented runner in the past.
With only the 2006 Commonwealth 1500m title under her belt, 2009 was truly the year which put the infectiously-outgoing runner on the global athletics map. Set for potential home-turf glory at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Dobriskey is evidently set for a bright future.
With a father – commuting from their family home in France - who works in health and safety on the 2012 site, the pressure to perform on the Olympic stage appears all-consuming: “I can’t say what will happen come London and potentially not being there frightens me so much. I daren’t say what my goal is, as I take nothing for granted, but I’d obviously love gold!”
Expectations in 2010
Feeling fit ahead of Saturday’s BUPA Great Edinburgh international cross-country, Dobriskey explained however that “it is just a fitness test to get me out of comfort zone.”
On the 6km over-distance race in the Scottish capital she continued: “I’m not quite in the shape I’d like to be in right now so the race will be a shock to the system, but I’m quite looking forward to it. I like to put an emphasis on progress in the winter.”
Steady progress she hopes will take her to more sublime performances on the indoor track at the Aviva Birmingham grand-prix and the Glasgow international later this month, followed by a potential tilt at the World indoor 3,000m title in March.
On the season ahead, Dobriskey revealed: “I’ll do the World indoors (in Doha) depending on what shape I’m in. George’s toying with the idea of more cross-countries, which I’m not thrilled about but I’ll do it.”
The summer will bring the European Championships in Barcelona and this is the event which provides the biggest aim for the 1500m-specialist: “It will be challenging as I’m no longer the underdog so there’ll be big expectations on me. We’re undecided whether to do the Commonwealths (in New Delhi) because it’s in October and it’ll be a long season, but another aim’s certainly to go under four-minutes more, to establish myself as a consistent performer and maybe break Kelly’s British record (3:57.90).”
Certainly many an athletics nut will put good money on Dobriskey receiving quite a few belated wedding gifts as she returns to competitive action this year, and the eventual Mrs Soos knows by now that gold is actually far nicer than silver.
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS