Valentine’s Day may have been and gone, but Holly Bleasdale will continue to rekindle her love affair with the pole vault today when she competes among a star-studded line-up in Birmingham.
The Euxton athlete will go head-to-head with a host of world class athletes – including Olympic silver medalist Yarisley Silva – at the Grand Prix meeting this afternoon, which is being staged at the National Indoor Arena.
Fresh from recording the best vault in the world so far this year when she cleared 4.73m to win the British National Championships, in Sheffield, last weekend, Bleasdale heads to Birmingham in confident mood.
The 22-year-old has confessed to losing her zest for the sport over the past couple of years due to off-field disruptions and injuries, which hindered her progress.
After registering the third highest jump of all-time indoors at the beginning of 2012, hopes were high for the London Olympics, but she was unable to produce her best form and finished outside the medals in sixth place.
A move to the United States of America to work with renowned coach Dan Pfaff didn’t work out and, despite claiming an indoor gold at the European Championships in 2013, injuries forced her to miss the entire outdoor season, including the World Championships, in Moscow, last summer. Now settled at her training base in Cardiff with her sole coach Scott Simpson, Bleasdale admits last weekend was the first time in two years that she had enjoyed herself in competition.
She said: “I think in 2012 there was a bit of a breakdown in communication between myself and my coach Julien Raffalli-Ebezant. I wasn’t really enjoying it that year.
“Even though I was so excited about the London Olympics, there was a lot of pressure and things weren’t quite going to plan in my training. I wasn’t jumping very well.
“In 2013, things changed. I was balancing my pole vault between two coaches here in the UK and in the USA.
“I was training half with Dan and half with Scott in Cardiff.
“It wasn’t ideal the time I was spending out in America because I really love the UK.
“I like to be close to my family and friends and I just felt isolated over there.
“Also the training is a little bit different now.
“It’s not quite as intense or as enduring on my body, which is one of the reason why I think I encountered a fesw injuries.
“I also think I have definitely took the pole vault for granted over the past few years and the extended period I had out injured made me much more grateful and thankful for the sport. I think that is one of the reason why I’m back competing well and just loving being able to compete again.
“I’m injury free and the heights are coming because I’m happy now.
“It was great to compete in front of a home crowd last weekend.
“I just went out and had some fun. It was really good to be back doing the thing that I love.”
Bleasdale was thrilled with her achievements in Sheffield – she almost cleared 4.81m, but the bar fell after a long delay.
She believes it will boost her confidence not only for today but for the World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland, next month.
“It was a great weekend all-around in Sheffield,” Bleadale said. “It builds confidence looking ahead for today.
“I feel fitter and stronger and technically better than ever before. The World Championships are only three weeks away which is my main aim and I feel like coming into form just at the right time.”
A victory in Birmingham today will certainly confirm Bleasdale as one of the big favourites in Sopot.
She added: “It will be great to get out there and compete with Silva and the other top girls in the world.
“I always feel like I raise my level when i compete against the best.”
n Holly Bleasdale is supporting the SUBWAY Helping Hearts™ Family 5K series to encourage families to live healthier and more active lifestyles.