Preston fighter Lisa Whiteside believes winning an European bronze medal can be the springboard to even greater success in the future.
The 31-year-old boxer was ‘buzzing’ after securing a well-deserved podium finish during last week’s championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Despite only just returning to training after undergoing major shoulder surgery earlier this year, Whiteside proved she is still very much a force to be reckoned with at the Olympic weight category of flyweight.
In what was her first major outing since going under the knife, the JR Gym star claimed two excellent victories over Greece’s Aikaterini Koutsogeorgopo and Wassila Lkhadiri, of France, in her opening two bouts.
Those two successes set up a mouth-watering semi-final encounter against the experienced Russian Elena Saveleva.
A former World and European champion at bantamweight and flyweight respectively, Saveleva proved too strong as she claimed an unanimous points victory in the four-round contest.
The 32-year-old, who competed at the 2012 London Olympics, then went on to claim gold by beating Ukraine’s Tetyana Kob in the final.
While obviously disappointed to lose her semi-final bout, Whiteside – who claimed European gold at bantamweight in 2013 – was thrilled to medal especially after spending so much of this year on the sidelines.
She believes her performance in Bulgaria will hand her plenty of confidence heading into an Olympic cycle which will hopefully end with her competing for gold at the Tokyo Games in 2020.
“The Russian girl was one awkward and tricky opponent,” said Whiteside, who won World Championship silver at flyweight in 2014.
“She’s been World and European champion and has competed at the Olympics before.
“She’s fighter of top pedigree and obviously that was my first major tournament back from shoulder surgery.
“I have only been back open sparring over the past six weeks. I had no pressure on me out there, but I went out there quite nervous because I did not really know how I would fare after the surgery.
“So to come home with a European bronze medal at 51kg – it means I get world ranking points.
“It’s a cracking start to what is the beginning of an Olympic cycle – I am absolutely buzzing.
“Don’t get me wrong – I did not settle for bronze.
“I gave it my all in the semi-final and gave her a really good fight.
“I hit her with some lovely shots in the third round.
“Sometimes it can be the luck of the draw.
“I think if I had got the Ukranian girl in my semi-final, I feel like I would have got to the final, although I am not saying the result would have been different but I could have won a silver.”
As well as winning a medal, the tournament also confirmed to Whiteside that she still loves the sport
“I believe there is still a lot more to come from me, but it’s just nice to know that I am back on form and it was clarification that I still absolutely love this sport,” she said.