WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS
Welcoming the Olympic year as the second-best pole-vaulter on the world rankings, Holly Bleasdale is relishing what the next eight months could potentially hold for Team GB’s hottest prospect, writes Nicola Bamford.
The 20-year-old Blackburn Harrier began the indoor season in sparkling form when revising her own British record with an impressive 4.71m leap in France last month – a feat which bettered her previous winter’s best by a remarkable 20cm margin.
Currently enjoying a month’s spell of training alongside the men’s European champion Renaud Lavillenie, Bleasdale was overjoyed with her latest accomplishment, which additionally catapulted her to thirteenth position on the global all-time list:
“I thought I would do a test competition to break up my winter training and see if all the hard work was paying off,” she explained.
“The competition for me couldn’t have gone any better - I knew I had been jumping well in training but when I cleared 4.71m off only twelve strides, it was a big step up for me and I know that if I keep training hard then the rest of the season will bring higher heights.”
Coached by Julien-Raffalli-Ebezant at their Manchester base, the Lancashire athlete – who last year turned down the lure of university to devote all of her time to the discipline – is now looking ahead to competing in the World indoor Championships in Turkey in March, where she intends to assert her Olympic credentials for the summer:
“I am looking forward to competing in Turkey and this competition will be a good marker for what I can achieve in the year of the Olympics,” Bleasdale revealed.
“I’ve made a lot of changes again this year - training is more intense and specific to things I need to work on such as improving my technique, lifting heavier and working on fitness.
“This seems to have come on so much since September and I’m really excited for this year - there has been so much hype for the Olympics and it just makes it more and more exciting for me.”
Despite entering only her fourth season in the event, the former heptathlete is certainly comfortable with making fairly regular staggering progressions.
After her breakthrough in 2010 – the year in which she jumped a 30cm lifetime best of 4.35m and grabbed the bronze medal at the World junior Championships – Bleasdale’s star shot higher and higher as she shifted from outside the top-twenty in the UK to being the undisputed number-one.
With shockingly bright potential still undoubtedly being tapped into, the young athlete is quite understandably excited about the future after yet another glorious outdoor campaign last summer:
“My 2011 season went better than expected when I planned my goals at the being of 2011,” she explained of the year in which she improved her personal best on fifteen occasions and made both the European indoor and World outdoor Championships.”
Despite having placed only eleventh in qualifying with 4.45m indoors in Paris last March and failing to register a valid height outdoors in Daegu in August, Bleasdale’s summer was one to remember.
After impressing with a huge 4.70m outdoor lifetime best in Germany in July, which improved her best mark by 9cm, placed her tenth in the world, shot her to nineteenth on the global all-time list and registered as a world age-19 record, she captured the European under23 crown in Ostrava with 4.55m a fortnight later, to boot.
Continuing, Bleasdale said:
“I was so pleased to jump a new British record last year - training went so well in the winter and I knew I could potentially break the record but when I did, I was so delighted and a little shocked.
“My main aim was to come top three in the European U23’s which I exceeded so I was thrilled with that and it was the highlight of my year.
“Everyone may think I was so disappointed with how the World’s turned out and I was at the time, but now I realise that it was a small speed bump in my career and it has made me a much stronger athlete and has given me lots of valuable experience I needed ahead of London 2012.”
Holding the national records as a senior indoors and out as well as the UK under23 best mark - all by a margin of 10cm or more - Bleasdale competed in her first competition of the year last weekend in France, with a winning 4.52m display.
Participating again – in Lyon – this weekend, the UK indoor and outdoor champion is set for a tantalising performance in Turkey this spring but she admits to saving her best efforts for the London Games this summer, where she hopes to not only make her Olympic debut but also the pole-vault final:
“My aims for 2012 aren’t clear yet as I have made big improvements in my training and I’m not sure what I am capable of off a full run-up (of sixteen strides),” she revealed.
“I’m going to keep an open mind about what height I can achieve and take every competition as it comes - the height I get will be a surprise to everyone, even me.”
“My sole aim is the Olympics and I will be happy qualifying for the final and whatever happens after that will be a bonus - for a British athlete, coping with the pressure is the main thing and if you can deal with this then you can tackle anything.”