Euxton Olympian Holly Bradshaw on growing up in Lancashire

PUBLISHED: 17:00 08 August 2016 | UPDATED: 17:55 11 August 2016

Holly Bradshaw of Great British pole vaulter.  (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images for IAAF)

Holly Bradshaw of Great British pole vaulter. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images for IAAF)

2015 Getty Images

There may be an awful lot of coffee in Brazil, but pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw is looking forward to returning from Rio for afternoon tea in Lancashire. Paul Mackenzie reports.

Team GB pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw visits her old school, Parklands High School in ChorleyTeam GB pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw visits her old school, Parklands High School in Chorley

Olympic gold in Rio would be good, but the icing on the cake for Holly Bradshaw would be a celebration afternoon tea back at home in Lancashire.

Her training schedule means it has been a while since the Preston-born pole vaulter enjoyed the treats she loves, but she said: ‘I’d eat cheesecake and chocolate cake every day if I could. I have such a sweet tooth. When I retire I plan to tour all the places in Lancashire that do afternoon tea with my mum.’

But although she admits to having tested a couple of venues, the grand tour won’t be happening for a while – she hopes to have another eight or ten years competing at the top level.

The Rio Games will be Holly’s second after her sixth place finish in London four years ago – where she competed under her maiden name Bleasdale – and after recovering from a back injury that ruled her out of competition for almost two years, she believes she’s now better prepared to challenge for medals.

‘The back problem is all sorted now and although there was a lot of hurt and lot of pain, I learned a lot from that and it made me become the athlete I am today,’ the 24-year-old said. ‘Looking back I was a bit erratic in 2012 but everything now is planned to the last detail, there is a strategy for everything.

‘I have been seeing a psychologist for a while now and working on strategies to stay focused. There’s only so much physical training you can do in any day or week, a lot of it is down to the psychological side of things.

‘This season I have needed to make smart decisions to get me to Rio in the best possible shape and with the best chance of doing well. It would have been easy to think that because I missed the last two years I need to make up for it and do every competition there is, but I need to be smart about it and that’s why I decided not to do the indoor season, because I wanted to focus on the Olympics.’

Holly spoke to Lancashire Life during a trip back to her old school, Parklands in Chorley, where she was speaking to pupils about the life of an elite athlete and attempting to inspire more people to get involved in sport.

Although she was a sporty child, she only began pole vaulting four years before the London Olympics, having previously raced on the track and taken part in gymnastics. After making the switch, in her late teens, her rise was rapid – within a couple of years she had broken the British junior pole vault record and won a bronze medal at the World Junior Championships.

‘That’s one of the messages I try to get across when I’m speaking to school children, it doesn’t matter how late you start,’ she said. ‘I still get nervous about standing up in front of a room full of children and speaking but I feel a packed stadium is my place, I feel comfortable out there.

‘The first four years, up to 2012, were great. I was jumping higher every month and everything was going well. Then after I won gold at the European Championships in 2013 until August last year there was a big chunk of time where I had constant setbacks, niggles and injuries.

‘London was my first Olympics and that was great because not many people get to compete at a home games, but I’m sure Rio will be just as good. I’m more experienced now and more professional.

‘I know that there are five or six other girls with just as much potential as me to win but I don’t like to think about how I’ll finish, I just want to concentrate on the technical things that I need to do in order to jump as high as I can. It’s all about thinking about what I can improve and what steps I can take. It is a very technical sport and there are so many things that can go right and wrong. I would like to think I have another eight or ten years left of competing at the highest level.’

Holly, who lives in Euxton with her husband Paul – he proposed in the evening after the London 2012 pole vault final – now trains in Cardiff. ‘Being in South Wales is hard for me because my family is in Lancashire and I love being with them. And they don’t do afternoon tea like they do here.

‘It’s also hard because I don’t get to see much of my friends in Olympic squad because we don’t all train together. It would be nice if we had it all centralised. In Lancashire, obviously.’

Follow Holly on twitter at @HollyBleasdale

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