FitzWimarc School teacher Kate Cowley will have mixed emotions when she stands on the runway in the women’s pole vault final at the Olympic trials.
On the one hand the PE teacher will be delighted to have returned to the elite end of UK athletics after an absence of several years, but on the other, the former international heptathlete will be thinking what might have been.
The 30-year-old only took up pole vaulting two years ago after injuries had brought her multi-eventing career to an end.
But in that short space of time, Cowley has progressed rapidly and is now inside the top 15 in the national rankings.
“It’s going to be good to be competing against the top girls in the country and watch what they are doing,” said Cowley. “Obviously everyone will be looking to see what sort of shape Holly Bleasdale is in because she is a realistic medal hope at the Olympics.
“But for me it is a bit of a shame that I didn’t take up the pole vault earlier and dedicate a bit more time to it.”
Under her maiden name of Kate Brewington, the Havering Mayesbrook athlete competed for Great Britain at senior, under-23 and under-20 level .
She was part of the European Cup winning British heptathlon team in 2003 alongside Denise Lewis, Kelly Sotherton and training partner Julie Hollman.
“I was on course for the 2008 Olympics but I was so unlucky with injuries,” said Cowley, who is married to Concord Rangers manager and fellow FitzWimarc teacher Danny. “A nasty back injury hampered my training that year and my training partner (Hollman) ended up going instead.
“It was then I fell out of love with the sport a bit. It was getting me frustrated.”
Cowley started dabbling with the pole vault in 2010 after plenty of specialists in the discipline, including former Olympian and FitzWimarc School pupil Kevin Hughes, suggested her skills would transfer well to the event.
“I was talked into having a go and never looked back,” said Cowley. “I used to do gymnastics when I was younger and that helps. Then I looked at it and thought it’s like a long jump on a pole, which I can do, and then doing a hand stand at the top, which I can do too.”
Cowley’s personal best now stands at 3.80m and she is looking to clear 4m this weekend.
“It’s difficult though because you come to a point where you become very reliant on the poles and they cost a lot of money.
“I got to the point of reaching 3.80m and the poles I was using were just not getting me any higher. That’s where my sticking point is. I can’t justify spending money on it at this point in my career.
“I didn’t realise how much a difference the poles make. I’ve been training with a Canadian girl and we were both jumping the same heights. Then she got some carbon fibre poles and just jumped 4.16m like that.
“It was a shock and a bit deflating to be honest. It’s such a shame because I do wonder if I had started this a bit earlier what might have happened.”
By Ryan Goad