Lancashire’s pole vaulters plan for the 2021 Olympics

PUBLISHED: 00:00 20 August 2020

Harry Coppell, from Wigan

Harry Coppell, from Wigan

not Archant

The world’s greatest athletes should have been gathering this month for the Olympics in Tokyo. Here, two of Lancashire’s best tell us why lockdown could help them challenge for medals

Holly Bradshaw competes in the Women's Pole Vault final of the 15th IAAF World Athletics Championships Beijing (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images for IAAF)Holly Bradshaw competes in the Women's Pole Vault final of the 15th IAAF World Athletics Championships Beijing (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images for IAAF)

Lancashire’s pole vaulters are head and shoulders above the rest and two of the best think the Olympic postponement might work in their favour.

British record holder Holly Bradshaw, from Euxton, took bronze at the European Championships in Berlin in 2018, won silver at the European Indoors last year, and finished fourth at the World Championships, in Doha, with a height of 4.80m, just a centimetre under her outdoor personal best.

And despite having had her plans so dramatically changed, the Loughborough University student says she has come back from lockdown in better shape than ever.

‘The time from March to May was like winter usually is,’ she said. ‘I was in the gym a lot and now I’m able to get back to more explosive work, vaulting sprinting and plyometrics, and actually vaulting.

Harry Coppell takes a break from training during lockdownHarry Coppell takes a break from training during lockdown

‘I think I unlocked something technical in the break, which means I’m vaulting better than ever now. To think about personal bests this year might be a bit of a tall order but definitely next year, I think 4.90m is on for me.

‘Obviously I would have been ready for the Olympics this year but I think I could be in even better shape next year. I hope in a couple of years I will be able to look back on this time as a turning point.’

And the 28-year-old Blackburn Harrier added: ‘The emotions of a big competition are what I live for – I love that adrenalin and pressure. I am sad to think I can’t do that this year but there are plans for some parts of the domestic season – the British Championships and the Diamond League at Gateshead.

‘I’ve been invited to at least ten competitions around Europe. It’s great that people are starting to organise competitions again but I don’t want to be going there if when I come back I have to go into quarantine for two weeks and can’t train.’

Harry Coppell, from Billinge, also studies at Loughborough and used the outdoor facilities there to train during lockdown. He set a personal best of 5.80m in February to qualify for the Olympics and believes the extra time he’s been given to prepare for the Games in Tokyo will help him reach greater heights.

The 23-year-old former World Youth Champion said: ‘I think postponing the Olympics has been a good thing for me – it gives me an extra year to improve and to hopefully jump higher. I’m excited for the opportunity – I don’t think I’ve lost anything in lockdown, so we’ll see what form I’m in when I get back to competition.

‘Holly is in a better position than me because she already has that profile and will be invited to events, whereas I’m still emerging onto the scene. Competitions are happening in August and September, but we’ll have to see about the travel restrictions – it’s no good going to compete if I’ll have to be in quarantine for two weeks when I get back.

‘I have been lucky to be able to use some of the outdoor facilities at the university during lockdown. That’s meant I could maintain my fitness ready for if there’s any opportunity for competitions later in the summer.’


Katrina Johnson-Thompson: The 27-year-old Liverpool-born heptathlete is one of the biggest names in British sport and will be among the favourites for gold in Tokyo. Known as KJT, she is the British record holder and the reigning Commonwealth and World Champion.

Sophie Hitchon: The Burnley-born British record holder became the first GB hammer thrower to win an Olympic medal when she took bronze at the Rio Games in 2016. Having made changes to her technique, the Olympic delay could give the 29-year-old valuable extra preparation time.

Naomi Ogbeta: The Preston-born triple jumper who now lives in Salford is a five-time British champion. She made her senior international debut in the 2018 European Championships and attended last year’s world championships with the BBC but will be hoping to be on the track instead of the studio in Tokyo.

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