Wigan pole vaulter catapults herself to number one but remains modest ahead of Olympics

By Daniel McCann

Wigan based pole vaulter Holly Bleasedale is not allowing herself to get too carried away with all the talk of an ever approaching Olympics.

The Blackburn Harrier has quite literally catapulted her way to the top of the world rankings after an impressive jump at a low key meet in Lyon, France just over a week ago smashing her own British record in the process

The 4.87m vault Holly achieved in her last meet is the second highest jump by a woman and only current Olympic champion and world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva (5.00m) has gone higher indoors.

But despite the expectation of being ranked number one and her rapid rise in the sport that she has only been doing for just over three years Holly remains grounded and focused on her targets.

She said: “Obviously everyone has mentioned the medals to me but I think for me to get through to the final with so much pressure on me being a home Olympics, I think getting to the final and then doing the best I can is such a great thing and it will be such a great achievement and that’s what my aim is.

“I’m taking this year to be more about consistency so if I jump higher then that’s great but I’d rather have a year were I go to every competition and jump over 4.70 so I can go into London and think oh I can definitely jump 70 and more often than not that is good enough for a medal.”

The Great Britain athlete has always been involved in sport and had spells in gymnastics, hurdles and heptathlon before her coach Julien Raffalli-Ebezant introduced her to pole vault in a taster session at her club.

Julien saw that Holly had a natural talent for the sport and the 20-year-old athlete has never looked back and she is determined to keep getting higher.

Whilst preparing to enter the gym to do a weights session Holly revealed: “I have upped my training this year so my sessions are more intense and I’m doing a higher volume of training.

“I have also been working with a psychologist and a nutritionist to get the most out of being in an Olympic year so I’ve done quite a lot different this year and it seems to have paid off so far and hopefully it will keep improving leading up to the Olympics.”

The Olympics are never far from her mind though and no matter how focused Holly is, she does allow herself to get excited and who can blame her.

Having been to a UK meeting in November given by UK Athletics Head Coach, Charles Van Commenee, the young star was filled in about all things London 2012.

The Manchester Met student was informed about the athletes village and the food halls amongst other things, but she was most excited about the abundance of kit she will be given.

“We have been told we are going to get three times the amount of kit we actually need.  There’s a massive warehouse and you go to different stations and collect like 50 t-shirts so it’s really exciting.

“I think we have been given a relatively good understanding of it which is good as it’s like a home feel advantage I guess. I guess there’s so much to look forward to in the build-up.”

A medal at London 2012 is a very realistic target considering how much Holly has improved in such a short period of time. 

Expectations will be even higher if she manages to get a on the podium at the upcoming World Indoor Championships in Istanbul in March and the fact that she says she responds well to pressure bodes well.

She added: “I don’t know what it is about me whenever I go to a competition I always step it up so much.

“If I am having a good training session and maybe I am vaulting over 4.70 I know that when I go to a competition and the pressures on, I thrive off pressure so when I go to competitions I step it up and compete so much better so that’s kind of exciting.

The European Under 23 champion does not have too many memories of past Olympics but she did comment on one of her inspirations.

“I do remember obviously Kelly Holmes when she won her double in Athens and that was amazing. 

“I have only been doing it for a short period of time I have not had a number of memories to look back on but I have always followed it and loved it and always wanted to be in it.

“I have always dreamt of going to the Olympics. It’s going to be so exciting because the competition I went to in Lyon only had 200 people there but the atmosphere was electric because I was jumping quite high.

“There will be like 80,000 people in the Olympic stadium.  It’s going to be an amazing atmosphere and I can’t wait to go there and compete.”

After a tearful exit in the qualifying round at last year’s World Championship in Daegu Holly will be able to draw on those experiences and plan a strategy.

“I think last year when I did Daegu my peaking strategy did not quite work so this year we’re having a test run using the indoors as a test.

“I’m going to do four competitions leading up to the World Indoors and then if that works out alright then I will probably do the same outdoors then go to London.”

Holly plans to keep perfecting her technique and thinks this will take another three to four years to achieve.

Her British record was set indoor off a shorter run up than outdoors so realistically speaking she should be able to go higher on a longer stride pattern outdoors.

This Lancashire lass could just go all the way at London 2012 beating her more experienced rivals and is definitely going to be an outside bet for a medal. 

Perhaps Holly’s biggest hurdle will be choosing between her parents and boyfriend for whom shall get the two tickets she is allocated for support.

Holly’s next competitive action will be in Bydgoszcz, Poland this month.

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