Louise Mather - music lover, film-maker, Commonwealth weightlifter

By Keir MurrayBBC Sport Scotland
Scotland weightlifter Louise Mather
Louise Mather was inspired to try weightlifting after watching it in person at the London Olympics

Ray Cavanagh laughs about the time he first met Louise Mather.

Two young women had walked into his weightlifting club, a world of grunts and clanking steel at the Caledonian Taekwondo gym in Glasgow.

"Her pal Kerry had phoned me to enquire about Louise joining," the former Commonwealth weightlifter recalled.

"She said her friend had done some powerlifting but fancied trying weightlifting.

"I was waiting on her coming into the gym and when she and Kerry walked in I thought I knew which one had done some lifting before.

"I held my hand out to Kerry, assuming she was Louise. I got the wrong person."

That was the last error Cavanagh made with Mather, now 30.

He said: "As soon as I saw her lifting I could see she had the strength to be a success. It would just be a case of honing her technique.

"I knew that with her strength base and body shape she could do damage in weightlifting.

"After her first session, I said, 'you've got potential, stick at it,' and now she's in the Commonwealth Games team."

Remarkably, that first encounter at the Anniesland gym was only 18 months ago. Since then, she has trained diligently, her reward a place at the Games in her home city of Glasgow.

"My coach has seen me through a lot, through the tantrums and such like," Mather told BBC Scotland.

"But it's all been worth it. I'm really happy to be in the Scotland team."

The Scottish public's perceptions of weightlifters are likely to be challenged this summer. Each member of the team, comprising Mather, Sophie Smyth and her cousin Georgi Black as well as Peter Kirkbride, has an infectious personality.

The latter three are products of Chick Hamilton's Kilmarnock Weightlifting Club, while Mather works mostly with Cavanagh but also has sessions with Hamilton as he will manage the lifters at the Games.

Mather's interests away from the gym seem at odds with the unflinching routines of lifting cold steel. She is a film-maker, photographer and musician. One suspects her band, Any Color Black, has no need for roadies.

Indeed, music is a key element in Mather's training, with Cavanagh describing her musical taste as being "different from anybody else's".

Louise Mather in action at the British Championships
Mather won silver at the British Championships in May, despite almost passing out when she hit her windpipe with the bar during the clean and jerk

"She blasts her music in the gym," he said with an air of resignation. "I have to use hand gestures to indicate that she should change her position, for example."

And then there's the wit. When it was pointed out in the interview that she had made the Commonwealth Games qualifying weights comfortably, she replied: "It didn't feel comfortable at the time."

In 2012, Mather was a keen footballer and had been powerlifting at home. Her interest in weightlifting was piqued by watching the event at the London Olympics, where she had taken her sister for her birthday.

"I got home and tried to teach myself the Olympic movements in my basement with a powerlifting bar, which is much thicker and doesn't spin," she said.

"One day I clean and jerked 70kg, which is my body weight. I thought, 'this is a lot more fun that deadlifting!'"

In her sessions with Cavanagh she has added another 27kg to her personal best for the clean and jerk and her competitive record for the snatch is 78kg, these from a body weight of 69kg.

She continued: "The happiest I've ever been was when I snatched 60kg, which is considerably below my best. I remember how excited I was.

"My celebration was quite good. I think I pulled out a five-minute robot dance move.

"I train better when I'm happy and loose and in the mood.

"I asked myself, 'what if you don't go to the Games?' and I decided it wouldn't be the end of the world.

"I said, 'let's just have some fun and see what happens'.

"So I kind of let go of it and once I did that I found it much easier to get, which is strange."

A positive attitude can empower an athlete but it doesn't defy the laws of physics. So what else helps Mather lift such weights above her head?

"A little bit of good background music goes a long way," she said.

"Sometimes if I'm having a bad session, I'll repeat a few quotes to myself. I like the quote that sport doesn't build character, it reveals it.

"I ask myself, 'what do you want to reveal today? Do you want to win or do you want to lose?'

"Also, I am a complete perfectionist. If I get one lift that feels amazing it makes the 40 that I've done before it worth it. You just chase that for ever."

Cavanagh, 51, thinks Mather can clean and jerk 100kg or more at the Clyde Auditorium at Glasgow 2014. That, he feels, is a realistic target.

However, with the likes of Canada's and Nigeria's top lifters competing with England's Rebekah Tiler and Natasha Perdue from Wales, Mather, with a best combined lift total of 175kg, is unlikely to progress from platform to podium.

Perdue lifted a combined weight of 205kg at the London Olympics, while Tiler lifted the same weight to win last month's British championships, at the age of 15.

Mather's coach, from his experience as a competitor at the 1994 Games in Victoria, says it's vital that she keeps herself focused and thinks only about her own performance.

He said: "She's so driven. She's been training hard at the club with her pal Colette Will. I'm sure she'll do well."

Look out for a bit of crowd surfing if she does.

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