Our roving reporter interviewed pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw in the run up to the British Championships. The full interview will appear in a forthcoming Backtrack, but here are some of the highlights...
BASC: How did you get into athletics?
Holly Bradshaw: My club (Blackburn Harriers) put on 6 weeks of taster sessions for anyone at the club to have a try. I always got stuck into anything and everything so thought why not give it a try and right from the word go… I LOVED IT! After the 6 week taster course the coach leading it invited me to train with him in Manchester and the rest is history.
How did you make the decision that pole vault was "your event”?
HB: After the first 6 months of doing it I knew this was the sport for me. I took to it so well and within the first 6 months I had jumped 4m (a pretty big landmark for a female vaulter) and qualified to represent GB in the European Juniors. I just loved everything about the pole vault and that’s why I improved so quickly in it.
Were there any athletes you admired when first starting in the sport?
HB: I really admired Jenny Meadows and Helen Clitheroe. They were from my region and I always saw them competing for GB, I wanted to be like them. As I got older I knew I wanted to model myself on them as they were not only amazing athletes but they were so down to earth, caring and had such a good attitude towards the sport. I really like to surround myself with humble people and I think it’s Jenny and Helen that have taught me that.
Do you have a preference between indoor, outdoor or street meets?
HB: I like it all! They all have a place, I like indoors as it means you only need to focus on your jump, you don’t have to worry about the weather playing havoc however indoors is nothing like outdoors. Outdoors although sometimes gets ruined by the weather and performances can be inhibited by it, there is something about the outdoor season which feels so much more important than an indoors. Outdoors is where the real medals are won - you don’t have an indoor Olympics so in that regard outdoors is where you wanna be firing and jumping high. Street meets are incredible - you have a special kinda vibe at these meets. It is the one time that pole vault is priority! The fans are super close, the music is blasting, and it is just like nothing else.
You've competed at championships both home & abroad, does a home crowd really help with performance?
HB: YES - as long as you can control your emotions, adrenaline, etc. In London 2012 the crowd was something else! I was 20 years old; my first Olympic Games and I was not prepared for the emotions I would experience being in front of that size home crowd and I think it affected me in a negative way as I couldn’t focus and concentrate. However, having experienced that and learnt from it, being in front of a home crowd gives me a 10% boost for sure - I certainly believe it gives me an edge over my competitors because of how special the British fans are.
Does it excite you that the British Championships will be held in the North West from next year?
HB: Oh gosh, yes! When I heard it was Manchester I was thrilled. Basically, my hometown is going to hold the Olympic Games Trials - I actually think half of the stadium will be full of my family and friends who can eventually come and watch me in a competition without traveling halfway across the country. I am so excited.
How do you feel about the Great City Games in Manchester coming to an end?
HB: I was gutted! I jumped 4.80 there in 2017 and as Manchester is practically my home, I always love competing there as all my family come and watch and it’s always very special. I understand that logistically it is a nightmare however I loved it as passers-by could stop and watch, it was always so good for promoting the event of pole vault and it is a shame that it’s now gone.
What are your ambitions for your athletics career?
HB: I feel like I have had a pretty successful career to date so if everything was to end right now I would be rather happy. However, I have always believed I can jump 5m & be a World / Olympic Medallist, so I am going to give my all to achieving these things over the next 2-5 years.
If you could change one thing about the sport what would it be?
HB: The amount of coverage field events gets. I understand how tricky it is to show field events live however nobody promotes field events. It is a vicious circle that will never be broken…TV coverage, papers, social media shows / promotes track athletes therefore sponsors want to support track athletes, sponsors support the track athletes therefore that’s what the public, kids etc see therefore they want to be like them… and it continues!! If there was more publicity / exposure of say pole vault, more people who know about the event, maybe want to give it a try and the event grows!
What's your assessment of 2019 so far?
HB: I am really happy with my 2019 season so far! Indoors was the perfect season for me - athletes dream of having those seasons where it seems like you can’t put a foot wrong. Outdoors I have faced a few challenges which has been frustrating however that’s totally normal but when you have such a good indoor season you just expect that to be the norm now. I had a tricky start to my 2019 outdoor season however since Lausanne Diamond League my fortune changed and now, I am in a really good spot ahead of Doha.