THE pizza industry hasn’t been this closely associated with a major sporting event since that infamous Pizza Hut TV advert poked fun at Gareth Southgate in the wake of his Euro 96 penalty miss. Lisa Tobias isn’t just a mum of two, former gymnast-turned world record-breaking power lifter and now Team Scotland weight lifter for the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast. In her other life she just happens to operate 14 Domino’s pizza franchises across Glasgow, Ayrshire and Northern Ireland. Manufacturing margaritas is all very well, but Tobias is determined to serve up a slice of Scottish sporting success.
“I was a gymnast right through from nine years old to 20-ish, when I started my own business,” said Tobias. “Dominos UK have got a franchise from the company in the States, and then I franchise from them and I now have 14 Dominos franchises right across Glasgow, Ayrshire and Northern Ireland. It keeps me very busy.
“I still keep in touch with what is going on, I am just not quite as hands-on as I used to be,” she added. “My husband and I do it together but he has taken over more of the running of it to let me focus on training.
“I used to be in there every single shift, making the pizzas and training the staff, that kind of thing. It has probably helped my strength a wee bit, working the rushes. But now I have trained other people to do that, to allow me to focus on my weight-lifting training.”
You might not associate the product with the usual diet of a world class athlete, but every now and then Tobias is prepared to make an exception. “Pizza doesn’t quite fit in with my diet plan close to competition,” she says, “but as an occasional treat, why not?”
Tobias’ journey to the Gold Coast this April is a combination of chance and meticulous planning. Attempting to get back into gymnastics after the birth of her children Jared and Naomi, her personal trainer Gordon Hill happened to mention that she was freakishly strong for a woman standing less than 5ft tall and weighing in at less than seven and a half stone. A decision was taken pretty much there and then to go into powerlifting, with extraordinary results.
“I spoke to a personal trainer to get me fit again for gymnastics and he discovered that, for my size, I was really strong,” said Tobias.
“So we went down the route of lifting weights and I started entering power-lifting competitions,” she added. “After about six months of training I had won the Scottish Championships, then the British championships, the Europeans, and then the World championships – all within a year of starting power lifting.”
Power lifting, for the uninitiated out there, is dead lifting to hip level and convincing judges that you are in control enough of the weight to stand static at the end of it. Tobias took to it to the extent that her name is in there in the Guinness Book of Records.
“Three years ago, I dead-lifted 150kg, when I weighed just 46kg, so that was triple my body weight,” said Tobias. “I knew I had broken the record, because I had already broken the previous record by 17kg, and that had stood for about 10 years or so. So I’m pretty confident this record will be there for quite a long time.”
Becoming one of the world’s top power lifters was all very well, but this restless young woman still wasn’t entirely satisfied. She was sitting watching the weight-lifting competition at Glasgow 2014 when it became clear to Tobias what she really wanted to do with her life.
Compete for Scotland, at the Commonwealth Games. She changed to weigh-lifting and some three years down the line, the chance to do so finally crystallised when she was named ten days ago in the second tranche of athletes for Team Scotland at the Gold Coast.
Returning with a medal would be even more special, of course, and judging by the recent Commonwealth Championships which doubles as a test event, it isn’t entirely out of the question.
She finished fifth, setting no fewer than three Scottish records along the way. Third in the Britain, she has been Scottish champion for three years running.
“I was sitting there during Glasgow 2014, watching my weight class [48kg], just totally mesmerised about what these girls were able to lift,” said Tobias. “That is when I said to my coach Gordon if he thought there was a chance I could ever compete at the Commonwealth Games for Scotland if I made the switch. He was completely behind me the whole way. He believed I can do it.”
Tobias won’t define her success or failure in April on the strength of whether she returns with a medal. “At the Commonwealth Championships in September I finished fifth and not every single nation that is competing at the Commonwealth Games was competing,” she added. “So I mean just to go out there and do the best I can. I would love to hit some Scottish records when I am out there, which is something that I did at the Commonwealth Championships. There are no world records in weightlifting yet – just Scottish ones – but I would love to finish as high as possible – that is my main goal. I don’t do anything in half measures.”