A jubliant Holly Bleasdale won Britain’s first title at the European Indoor Championships on Saturday.
Bleasdale, from Euxton, Chorley, triumphed in the pole vault following a dramatic jump-off with defending champion Anna Rogowska after both athletes had failed with three attempts at 4.72 metres and could not be separated on countback.
Britain still face an uphill task to achieve the target set by head coach Peter Eriksson of improving on the nine medals won in Paris two years ago however, with Olympic bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz only sixth in the high jump and Shara Proctor denied a bronze medal in the long jump by just two centimetres in the final round.
Bleasdale, Britain’s first ever European pole vault champion, revealed she initially thought she had finished second.
“I knew they did them (jump-offs) but I’ve never ever been in one before,” said the 21-year-old, who was sixth at the London Olympics but came into the competition as number one in Europe.
“I thought I had just come second so I was waving to the crowd and then they told me I had to do a jump-off.
“I didn’t really know what one was but I am glad we did it. We had the option to share the gold medal or do a jump-off and I wanted to do a jump-off. I wanted the gold medal to myself.
“I was in the moment and felt really good and felt if I got my jump together I could clear the bar easily.”
Bleasdale and Rogowska both failed with one more attempt at 4.72m in the jump-off, with the bar then lowered to 4.67m. Rogowska suffered another failure but Bleasdale took her chance with a fine clearance to seal victory.
Team captain and room-mate Jenny Meadows, who celebrated with Bleasdale on the track after reaching the 800m final on her return from an 18-month injury lay-off, said: “I talked to Holly beforehand about lots of different scenarios but we didn’t talk about a jump-off.”