Pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw on preparing for the delayed Olympic Games

PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 May 2020

Holly Bradshaw competing in the  IAAF World Athletics Championships in Beijing  (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images for IAAF)

Holly Bradshaw competing in the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Beijing (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images for IAAF)

2015 Getty Images

Pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw should be preparing for the Olympics – instead she’s training in her garage and planning for next year.

Team GB pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw talks to pupils at her old school, Parklands High School in Chorley (c) Mark Robinson/MDR PhotographyTeam GB pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw talks to pupils at her old school, Parklands High School in Chorley (c) Mark Robinson/MDR Photography

Many people will have planned their lives around some of the big sporting events that should have been staged this year. The Grand National, Wimbledon, the Euro 2020 tournament and the Olympics will have been highlights in the calendars of many armchair fans.

But while they have had their viewing schedules affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, the athletes and competitors who should have been lining up have had their lives put on hold by the outbreak.

Among the Lancastrians who would have been at the Olympics in Tokyo is Holly Bradshaw. The 28-year-old pole vaulter from Euxton is the British record holder and has been in some of the best form of her life, having been largely injury-free for the last couple of years.

Having claimed bronze at the European Championships in Berlin in 2018, she won silver at the European Indoors last year, then finished fourth at the World Championships, in Doha, with a height of 4.80m, just a centimetre under her outdoor personal best.

Despite having had her plans so dramatically changed, the Loughborough University student is remaining positive and is optimistic that there may be a chance to compete before the end of the outdoor season.

‘Hopefully there will be some competitions later in the year, but I enjoy training so I’ll keep ticking over and if there are comps it’ll be a bonus,’ she says.

‘2021 is now going to be a really big year for me and I can have a little chill this year, keep ticking over, and be ready for the Tokyo Olympics. It’s important we keep things in perspective though, people are dying from this disease and in the grand scheme of things, although sport is my life, the health of everybody around the world is more important.

‘Now we’re in lockdown I’m missing some of the simple things – going out for coffee, or a meal and going to the cinema, but I am still managing to train for about two or three hours a day. I have a gym in the garage, so I’m doing weights and circuits. Obviously I can’t pole vault but I live about 200 metres from the university, so I’m using the fields there for training as well.

‘I try to do different things and if I can’t get my spikes on, there’s an underground car park I’ve been using where I can do the same warm up and sprints. I do weights in the gym as well, so I’ve not been hindered too much so far, but I am missing some specific elements of my training and of course, I’d love to be able to vault.’

The Blackburn Harrier is also being kept busy with work for her Masters in sports psychology – she has four assignments to complete by the end of May.

She adds: ‘After I retire, I’d like to be a sports psychology researcher. I’m doing a bit of research now on post-Olympic blues. I suppose it’s a way of giving something back. It’s something I’ve struggled with and I know lots of other athletes have, but I don’t think it’s taken seriously enough, or understood enough.

‘Before a championship an athlete can be built up to be something special but as soon as it’s over that’s all taken away and athletes can be left feeling deserted. Finishing fifth at the Rio Olympics was amazing for me, but a lot of people said things like, ‘Maybe next time’.

‘There’s a feeling that athletes are just medal winning machines. Sport used to be about participation and doing the best you can, not just about winning medals.’

stay fit at home

Holly has also been busy helping others keep fit during the lockdown, with a series of pole vault training exercise videos which are available through her twitter account, @HollyBradshawPV. And here she shares some extra exercise tips to help keep Lancashire Life readers fit during the lockdown:

‘There’s a lot of exercises people can do at home but it’s very hard to be inspired if the exercises are boring,’ she says. ‘I’d recommend choosing ten exercises and doing something I do called On The Minute Every Minute. Start with the second hand on 12 and do ten reps of the first exercise, then rest until the second hand is back on 12 and do your second exercise and so on.

‘You can be creative with each exercise. Maybe start doing squats, then progress to do them with your arms up; or do press ups with your feet raised, or press ups with a shoulder tap. There’s lots of inspiration online and I use Pinterest to get ideas.

‘Another easy one to try at home is to hold a tin of beans, stand on one leg and put the tin down as far away from you as possible, stand up and then reach down and pick it up again. Try putting it out in front of you, then out to the sides.’

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