Battling Bradshaw feels fire for tilt at a third Olympics in Tokyo

Battling Bradshaw feels fire for tilt at a third Olympics in Tokyo

24 June 2020 / 15:16
Becoming a mother means the world to Holly Bradshaw.

The pole vaulter and husband Paul met when they were teenagers. Their families live a mile apart in Lancashire and they married six years ago.

Bradshaw’s itinerant career has seen them up sticks to America, Cardiff and now Loughborough. It has also led them to decide to delay starting a family.

The 28-year-old still harbours a burning desire to win a global medal and with the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics to 2021, motherhood will have to wait even longer.

So as she fields a flood of cute baby photos from friends and even coach Scott Simpson, Bradshaw has gone to the well of her hard-wired motivation to keep raising that bar. 

“As long as I've wanted to do pole vault, I've also wanted to be a mum and being an athlete has prevented that,” said the two-time Olympian.

“My husband and I have been on this mad, crazy journey together. When I retire from athletics, we’ve got this incredible life ahead of us.

“The World Championships in Doha finished last October and there’s a chance I won’t need to compete again until July 2021. 

“In reality, if I’d known about that break I would have thought about having a child.

“It does get emotional and it’s been difficult during lockdown.

“My coach Scott had a baby about ten weeks ago and every day I get pictures of their baby smiling, he’s such a cute little thing. It’s hard sometimes.

“But there are those moments when I know I'm still meant to be in the sport and I've still got the fight and determination to do things.

“I still want to win an Olympic medal and get close to the five-metre barrier. I don’t want anything to jeopardise that now.”

One lockdown moment told Bradshaw all she needed to know about her inner fire and it came from an unlikely source – a press release.

In mid-June, organisers of the Lausanne Diamond League announced this year’s meeting would be pole-vault only and sparkling fields would assemble.

World record holder Mondo Duplantis and reigning Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi were among those announced as competing – but not, to her ire, Bradshaw. 

“I was in the middle of a weight session when I heard,” she explained.

“I didn’t know anything about it or what was going on. I was totally sick to the stomach when I didn’t see my name on that list.

“I was so mad I lifted one kilogram off my personal best through sheer anger.

“It turns out I was entered all the time, they’d just left me off the press release. That shows the determination I've still got.”

The Lancastrian has always been passionate about sharing her idiosyncratic discipline with a wider audience. 

Her social media guide to pole vaulting proved a big hit with fans in 2019 and she’s been running workout sessions with fellow vaulters during lockdown.

The mysticism that makes pole vault exciting and ever more popular has also proven a stumbling block as recreating a leap at home is nigh-on impossible.

Undeterred, Bradshaw found a solution on the shelves of her local supermarket.

“Sprinters can find a patch of grass and go through the motions but it’s so hard for me to replicate anything,” she says.

“Scott and I were bouncing ideas off each on Zoom and tried to find something to simulate the weight of carrying a full pole.

“We landed on strapping a tin of baked beans to the end of a little stick to give it the weight and feel of a pole. It ended up working really well! 

“I’ve been able to do some incredible stuff during this time. I’ve managed to muddle through and also come out of the other side in good nick.

"I've had lots of injuries and needed resilience to come back better from them. That gives me confidence that this time doesn't have to be wasted."

Sportsbeat 2020