Holly Bradshaw had to dig deep to rediscover her love for pole vaulting but the fire is now burning bright inside the 26-year-old who is confident of getting back to her best.
The pole vaulting star burst onto the scene when making her Olympic debut at London 2012 before a stirring performance saw her finish fifth in Rio four years later.
Despite those highs though, after an intense few years, the Preston athlete concedes she lost enjoyment for the sport. But is now determined to compete for a medal at the European Championships in Berlin next month.
“I had the World Championships in Beijing in 2015, Rio Olympics in 2016 and then a home World Championships last year so it’s been an intense few years of ups and downs and stresses with injuries,” said Bradshaw, speaking at Fleetwood Town FC where she handed over the SPAR People’s Podium regional award to girls’ coach Christopher Morton for his contribution to girls’ football in the community.
“With the pressure I lost a bit of enjoyment from it and why I was doing it but this year I’m back to loving it.
“I spoke to my sport psychologist but it’s something that I really had to find myself. I would look on social media and see all the girls jumping well and even other athletes performing well while I’m injured or not where I wanted to be.
“I think after 2012 I burst onto the scene and everyone expected me to be this next wonder pole vaulter and I’d win everything. It’s not like that in pole vault, it’s such a hard sport to be at the top for.”
Bradshaw finished just off the podium at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast this year but a tenth title at the British Championships last month has put the vaulter in confident mood in the countdown to the Europeans.
It has been a year since Bradshaw produced her outdoor personal best of 4.81m and with two years before the next Olympics in Tokyo, she is adamant she’s got plenty to give in the sport for years to come.
She said: “I just want to enjoy myself in Berlin and I want to focus on the feelings of jumping. I’m trying to replicate the feeling when you nail a jump.
“At the moment it’s one every ten jumps but to win an Olympics or a World Championships medal I’ll need to be more consistent. I’m going to be up against some serious competitions but I feel like I’m up to it.
“Tokyo is my main aim at the minute. This year, we’ve taken a bit of a gamble with the shorter approach and it means the ceiling is lower than it should be.
“But we wanted to enjoy it and build confidence and going off a shorter run has less variables. I’m feeling confident and moving into next year is again all about building speed, strength and being ready for Tokyo.”
SPAR, long-term partner of British Athletics, is supporting community sport all over Britain. To discover more about our #PeoplesPodium winners visit: facebook.com/SPARintheUK