Born fighter Lisa Whiteside has ended a truly traumatic year on a massive high.
The Preston boxer marked a miraculous return to the ring last week with a fantastic silver medal at an Olympic Games test event in Rio de Janeiro.
After reaching the final in Brazil, Whiteside was narrowly beaten on points by the USA’s Ginny Fuchs.
It was a remarkable result for the 30-year-old, especially as her career looked like it could be over earlier this year after she suffered an horrendous head injury.
The 2016 Olympic Games hopeful fractured her skull in a freak accident outside of the ring in April.
Unconscious for several hours, Whiteside spent a number of days in a serious condition in hospital.
Happily, she battled back to health, but doctors warned that the gravity of her injury could force her to hang up her gloves for good.
But armed with a steely determination, the 2014 World Championship silver medal winner refused to give up.
She has slowly, but surely, battled back to full fitness – astounding medics in the process – and culminating in last weekend’s podium finish.
“I went to see my specialist the other week for a check-up and he said to me, ‘Lisa, the first time I met you, I thought your boxing career was over’,” Whiteside said.
“It’s obviously been a very tough year with what happened to me. Not just for me, but for my husband, my family and friends. It’s great to be back and winning a silver medal at an event like this.
“After the year that I have had, it is a great way to finish.”
Whiteside was one of a select group of boxers to be hand-picked for the event, which was staged as a dress rehearsal for next summer’s Olympic Games.
“I only found out I was going the week before,” she said..
“It was a big honour to be picked to go and I was up against some top quality girls – it was a real world class field.
“I just went out there and said to myself, ‘There’s no pressure on you Lisa, just go there and enjoy it’.
“I got to the final and my coaches said they thought I had won the final but I did not get the decision. But it was just great to be there – it’s what I needed.
“It showed me that I’m getting back to where I was when I won a silver at the World Championships, although I’m not there yet.”
Whiteside lost the final on all three judges’ cards, but feels the fight was much closer than that.
“After the first round I just thought, ‘I’ve got the gold medal here’ – I felt really comfortable,” said Whiteside.
“The second and third rounds were closer, but the fourth I just could not miss with the right-handers. She got the decision, I was disappointed but overall I’m really chuffed.”
Proving her fitness means Whiteside will now go back to the forefront of Team GB head coach Rob McCracken’s thinking in terms of selection for the Olympics.
She still faces an uphill battle as first she must meet the qualifying standard at next year’s World or European Championships and then she must be picked ahead of reigning Olympic champion Nicola Adams in the 51kg weight category.
“After last weekend, I know that I have got so much more to come,” Whiteside said. “I think what happened to me has made me stronger.”
The flyweight has also sprung a surprise in recent weeks by leaving Larches and Savick Amateur Boxing Club and switching to JR Gym, where she is being trained by Mick Day, who has worked with her for many years.
“I would like to thank Mick for the support he has shown me,” she added. “He came to see me in hospital every day and if it wasn’t for him I would have probably quit.”