WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS
Beginning only her third year as a pole-vault specialist, Holly Bleasdale is jumping from strength to strength after shattering her best marks and shooting up the national record lists, writes Nicola Bamford.
The 19-year-old Blackburn Harrier started to train seriously for the event in the autumn of 2008 and progressed from 2.80m to an impressive 4.05m leap to break the national junior record on numerous occasions in her debut season.
A Team GB call-up for the 2009 European junior championships subsequently arrived but an ill-timed broken bone in the foot put paid to her international aspirations, as she required surgery and six-months out from training.
Fast-forward twelve months, however and Bleasdale is riding on the crest of a wave following an unprecedented highly-successful comeback in the sport after claiming World junior bronze (with 4.15m) in Canada last summer and is currently poised to claim the British senior number-one mantel in thrilling fashion.
In a glorious 2011 indoor campaign so far, Bleasdale’s rate of progression is scintillating.
Having begun the year with a 7.94 indoor 60m personal best, she went on to register twenty-two centimetre lifetime best mark of 4.28m before improving further a week
later with 4.32m in Manchester to break the British under23 record.
Refusing to rest on her laurels, Bleasdale continued her fine form in the following weeks to leap 4.40m in France and 4.48m in Glasgow - representing the Commonwealth Select squad at the Aviva International - which took her to second on the British indoor all-time lists behind Kate Dennison’s 4.60m.
Coached by Julien Raffalli-Ebezant at SportCity in Manchester, the relative beginner to arguably athletics’ toughest technical event improved yet again last weekend to register 4.50m in Sheffield to lead the national rankings and gain the ‘A’ qualifier for this summer’s World outdoor championships.
A mere six centimeters away from breaking two-time Olympic champion Yelena Isinbayeva’s world age-19 best, Bleasdale will target the British record in Sheffield this weekend at the UK indoor championships, where she also hopes to book her spot on the team for next month’s European event.
“I feel happy that my outdoor season went so well and the start to the new indoor season is going great too,” Bleasdale explained.
“It makes all the training and hard work I put in throughout the season all feel worthwhile when I achieve personal bests and medals at major championships.
My current indoor season is going well too, I knew during my winter training that I was feeling fit and strong, so to see the results in competitions is great.
I stayed focused and positive during my injury and I worked on other weakness in my body such as core strength and upper body strength.
To be honest, if I could go back I wouldn’t change my injury - it did me good, as it changed the way I thought about athletics and has really helped me.”
After having added two strength and conditioning sessions, a gym workout and a gymnastics session to her weekly routine, it is little wonder that Bleasdale is reaping the rewards.
Currently on a gap year before beginning her university studies, the former heptathlete has transformed over the winter months into an exciting international contender on the senior scene.
In 2010, the Lancashire athlete claimed the senior UK outdoor silver medal with 4.35m, which remains the British junior record today but this summer, Bleasdale will expect to be jump around 20-30cm higher and may well be picked for the World championships in Daegu, South Korea in August.
“My main aims for 2011 are to gain experience at the European indoors and outdoors, I aim to medal at the European under23 championships (in Ostrava in July) and to jump a height of 4.56m for the world age-19 record,” Bleasdale revealed.
“I feel this is within my capabilities and it would be an amazing achievement.
My long term goals are to compete in all the major championships and the ultimate aim in my career is to get close to five metres and win the Olympics.
This is an ultimate goal and I have a long way to go before I reach this but I feel aiming high is the key to ensure motivation.”
With the aim of working as a physiotherapist in the future, Bleasdale for now has her sights firmly on establishing herself on the global scene in the senior ranks and judging by her current rate of progression, she will most likely be one to watch in 2012 and beyond.