Chorley pole vaulter Holly Bleasdale is confident her new coaching set-up will bear fruit as she looks to close the gap on the world’s best.
The 21-year-old was tipped for a medal at this year’s London Olympics after enjoying a meteoric rise to prominence in 2012.
After announcing herself to the world in fine style by vaulting 4.87m – the third best vault of all-time indoors – at a meeting in Villeurbanne, France, in January, Bleasdale was highly fancied for success at the London Games.
Unfortunately, in the white-hot atmosphere of the Olympic Stadium, Bleasdale was unable to find her best form as she finished down in sixth position.
She bowed out of the competition after failing to improve upon her clearance of 4.45m, which was well down on her personal best outdoors of 4.71m and 30cm short of the winning vault by American Jenn Suhr.
Bleasdale, though, while disappointed to finish out of the medals, was pleased to reach the final in what was her first experience of an Olympic Games.
And she believes her new American coach Dan Pfaff can take her on to greater heights after ending her long association with Frenchman Julien Raffalli-Ebezant.
She said: ”It was a big decision to change coaches. I thought about it for a while but just felt it was the right thing to do.
“But it was a really tough decision to make.
“The Olympics were an amazing experience and I was pleased to make the final in my first really big event.
“I would have liked to have jumped higher but everybody was jumping a lot lower because of the conditions.
“The weather was really tough, it was really windy.
“It was the worst conditions for pole vaulting, so we were a bit unlucky with that,” she said.
Having achieved so much in the early part of the year indoors, Bleasdale admitted she was probably affected by the increased expectation going into London 2012.
She said: “There was a lot of pressure – just with the amount of British people inside the stadium. The home support was massive.
“It was an amazing atmosphere to be in – I had never experienced anything like that before.
“I probably wasn’t prepared for it.
“But not many people can say that they have taken part in an Olympics in their home country and that just made my experience more special.
“I just can’t wait for the next one now in four years.”
Bleasdale is currently stationed on a training camp in Phoenix, Arizona, where she is working under the watchful eye of Pfaff.
She revealed that her new coach has opened her eyes to many aspects of pole vaulting.
“It’s been really good,” Bleasdale said. “I have been out in America for three-and-a-half weeks now.
“Working with Dan is really educational – I’m kind of like doing a PhD in pole vaulting.
“It was tough at first, taking everything in, but he does it in way that makes you understand.”
Bleasdale believes she has seen improvements already in her technique.
She said: “I used to get sore and tight calves, so one of the big things which he has been helping me with is working on my toes and feet during my run-up, and I haven’t had any calf problems since I’ve been out here.”
Having tasted the Olympic experience already in her young career, Bleasdale reckons she will be in a lot better shape to contest for a medal once the next one in Brazil comes around.
“Rio in 2016 is definitely the big aim – and the Olympics after that as well. I think I’ve got another two Olympics in me,” she said.
“I’m looking forward to Rio. I’ll be trying hard and hopefully I will stay injury free.
“A medal will definitely be the target – hopefully gold – but I know I’ve got a lot of work to do before then.”
While that may be Bleasdale’s long-term thinking, her immediate aim is to test her new-found skills and knowledge working under Pfaff when the indoor season gets underway at the beginning of next year.
She is hoping for a good showing at the European Indoor Championships, in Gothenburg, Sweden, in early March, before eyeing the World Outdoor Championships in Moscow, Russia, during the summer.
“I jumped really well indoors last year,” she said. “I’m looking forward to another great indoor season.
“I’ve got the European Indoors coming up and I’m targeting being up there in medal contention, then the world outdoors come later.”
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