Big Interview: Holly Bradshaw believes the next era of her career could be a golden one
Craig Salmon talks to Euxton pole vault ace Holly Bradshaw, who won silver at the European Indoor Championships last weekend
Holly Bradshaw reckons her athletics career has now entered its third era.
And the Euxton pole vaulter firmly believes the next stage of her life will be the time when she fulfils all of her undoubted potential.
Now aged 27, the former Parklands High School pupil has been a force in the sport for more than half a decade.
Announcing herself to the world as a fresh-faced 21-year-old back in 2012 when she cleared 4.87m at a meeting indoors in Villeurbanne, France, Bradshaw was widely tipped to win medals galore on the biggest stages.
Unfortunately, her career so far has not quite panned out the way many people expected.
That mark of 4.87m – which was at the time the third highest clearance by anyone ever indoors – still remains her personal best.
Appearances at both the London and Rio Olympics – in 2012 and 2016 respectively – ended without a medal for the Great Britain athlete.
While a coveted place on the podium at a World Championship has also eluded her. There have been highlights – such as European Indoor gold in 2013 and silver at the same event last weekend in Glasgow.
Serious injuries have certainly hindered the Blackburn Harrier’s progress over the years but now fully fit and heading towards her late 20s, Bradshaw is convinced great times are on the horizon.
Having consistently cleared 4.80m and above over the last couple of years, Bradshaw is eyeing medals – hopefully golds – at this year’s World Championships in Doha and next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
“I feel like the first three or four years of my career went really well,” said Bradshaw.
“It was a quick progression going from a beginner to all of a sudden finishing in sixth position at the London Olympics at the age of 21.
“Then my career plateaued for four years as I struggled with injury, but now I feel I am back on the rise.
“I definitely feel like I have not reached my full potential in the sport.
“Hopefully in the next two or three years with the World Championships this year, the Olympics next year and the Worlds again the year after, I can reach my potential within those three years.
“I feel like I’m in a great place now. I’ve learned so much from all the injuries and issues that I have had and now I am ready to springboard on to the next era of my career.”
Despite her ambitions for the future, Bradshaw admits she is proud of what she has achieved so far.
And if it was all to end tomorrow, she would walk away with her head held high.
“I feel like I have always been capable of jumping 5m and winning global medals.
“What people don’t realise is yes it’s the World championships this year and the Olympics next year, but that’s two days out of two years.
“For me to be at the top of my game that day – people underestimate how hard that is.
“If I was to look back at my career and I hadn’t won a major global medal, no way would I see my career as a failure.
“I’ve had such a great career so far.
“Obviously I feel like there’s potential for it to be better, but I definitely would not look back on it in a negative way. It’s been great. When I look back to when I was 14 or 15-years-old, I was doing the hurdles, I was playing football.
“I would never have thought back then that I would go to an Olympics or win medals at the highest level.
“I feel like I have enjoyed some successes along the way and if I wasn’t to fulfil my potential, I wouldn’t be upset about it because like I say I have had such a great career.
“Athletics is such a hard sport to win a medal in.
“All you got to hope for is that on the day, you can perform to your best.
“I think luck plays a part and preparation too. It’s about preparing in the best possible way.”
Bradshaw is certainly riding on the crest of a wave at the moment after enjoying a fine indoor season.
Her silver medal at the Euros – where she jumped 4.75m – followed success at the National Championships and a Grand Prix event – both held in Birmingham – last month.
Using a shorter 12-step approach to the bar, Bradshaw’s best jump this year is 4.81m and as she lengthens her run-up in the ensuing months, she believes clearances of 5m is well within her capabilities during this year’s outdoor season.
Last weekend, she was beaten to European gold by Anzhelika Sidorova, who cleared 4.85m.
“A major championship is all about winning medals .
“I didn’t really go to the Europeans there with a medal in mind.
“I just wanted to keep doing what I’ve been doing; making good jumps under the pressure of competing at a major championship.
"Obviously 4.75m was good for me.
“At the moment I off a 12 step approach so there is a limit to how high I can actually jump,” she said.
“The limit is probably around 4.85m.
“Sidorova was beating me on count back because I had had a failure at 4.65m and she had not had any failures.
“So as soon as she cleared 4.85m first, I knew in my head there was no way I was going to beat her.
“It was not physically possible for me; the physics don’t allow me to jump 4.90m off that run up.
“I kind of settled for the silver and thought let’s just try and jump 4.85m
“On a perfect day, I knew I could probably clear 4.85m and that’s what I tried to do.
“It was on the limit for me and unfortunately it just didn’t quite happen.”
Bradshaw revealed that the key for the rest of her career – however long that may be – is to simply enjoy herself and not try to create too much pressure on herself.
She believes that approach has certainly helped her so far this year.
“I have been there or thereabouts the last four or five years without having the smoothest of run-ins for the big events in terms of injuries,” she said.
“For me it’s all about global medals and having fun and enjoying myself.
“It’s about focusing on the process rather than the outcome.
“That is how I have achieved what I’ve been able to achieve so far this year.
“I will definitely like to keep the enjoyment as my main aim.
“Some people may frown about that and say you need to be more focused and serious, but that’s not the case. I always go into competitions focused and aware of what I want to achieve.
“But it can get to a point where that can kill you and puts pressure on you.
“So for me, it’s about thinking yes this is a big deal, but at the same time I want to have fun and enjoy myself while I am doing it.
“I think that’s how I get the best out of me and hopefully that will lead to medals and higher heights.”
Pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw has targeted clearing five metres this year for the first time in her life. The 27-year-old admits she has never scaled such a height – not even in practice.
“It’s not something that we do in practice – I don’t know why,” Bradshaw said. “But for me if I was to jump five metres, I don’t think it would give me anything. I have jumped really well in training, but competition is a totally different beast.
Knowing that I have cleared five metres in training would not help me when I’m competing or give me any satisfaction. Jumping five metres in a competition arena is when I want to do it, not in training.”