1st July 2020


Ten-time British champion Holly Bradshaw admits she has had to get creative over the past three months but has embraced and enjoyed it as more traditional training now returns and competition starts to appear.

The 28-year-old Blackburn Harrier has been in the form of her life for much of the past 18 months, essentially ever since winning bronze in the pole vault at the European Championships in Berlin in August 2018.

In 2019 she won more events than ever before in her career, cleared 4.80m more times than ever before in her career and proved she is one of the best pole vaulters on the planet with a fourth-place finish at the World Championships in Doha.

While she narrowly missed out on a medal at those World Championships, Bradshaw – and her coach Scott Simpson – were ready to step on in Olympic year and with three wins from four competitions to start 2020, the signs were good.

The Covid-19 pandemic brought an abrupt halt to those plans and, talking as part of a Business in Focus podcast with data and analytics experts and British Athletics partner PwC, Bradshaw elaborated upon how she coped during lockdown.

She said: “I am not lucky enough to have enough space in my garden to have a pole vault pit, which a lot of my competitors do. We had to get creative. I have had a lot of breaks in the past through injury where I have had to do similar things so it’s not like it’s the first time I have had to have a break from pole vault.

“We tried to keep the block of training as similar as possible but we had to come up with some drills that I could do at home and it’s quite well known that I am the ‘bean lady’. I strapped a tin of beans to the end of a pole to try and make it feel like I was doing drills with a pole.

“We set up the bins outside the house so I can use them as jerk blocks so I could do some weightlifting. I think my neighbours think I am absolutely crazy. They can see me in the street doing pole drills and we go to the local field and we were throwing the shot and I think my neighbours think I am absolutely nuts.”

For an athlete on the trajectory that Bradshaw was, the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games hit hard – it would have been her third time representing Team GB after a sixth on debut at London 2012 and then a fifth at Rio 2016.

Bradshaw has however retained a competitive edge in a makeshift gym in her garage at home and also appreciated the opportunity to do things she wouldn’t have otherwise done – or necessarily ever wanted to do.

She added: “When it was first announced that the Olympic Games were postponed I was utterly heartbroken. It is something that I have worked hard for for many years and having gone to London and Rio I know absolutely amazing the Olympic Games are and everything that goes with it.

“I love training but I thrive – and absolutely love – the competitive environment and to have something as big as that pulled away from you was devastating. I was happy it was postponed and not cancelled.

“I have seen this as an opportunity to work on other areas and channel my energy into other areas of my training that I might not necessarily have been able to do. That has definitely been in the weight room and, surprisingly, I have rewritten every one of my PBs in the gym and that has been amazing and has kept me motivated and kept me going.

“I normally hate walking, the last thing I want to do when I come back from training is go on and walk but I have absolutely loved doing that and going on bike rides while my husband has been running.”

With the announcement of the rearranged Muller British Athletics Championshis for September 4-5 in Manchester and meetings elsewhere on the continent getting confirmed, the competition calendar is starting to come back.

Bradshaw is therefore preparing to take to the runway in anger but her coach Simpson insists they aren’t rushing to get ready and will take the appropriate amount time before confirming competitions.

He said: “We’re still hopeful that there will be some competitions in Europe from mid-August onwards, which is how we are focussing ourselves right now and ultimately if that changes we will adapt and move things again.

“Right now that is our ambition. In order to give Holly enough time to prepare for that we need ten to 12 weeks of specific track time and pole vault time and we have restarted that.

“We just need to be really careful with how we reintroduce those training methods because injury risk goes up a lot when you start increasing things like intensity, when you change the track surface you are running on etc.

“We’re very gently increasing the intensity and frequency of the training she’s doing but ultimately we’ll only compete when Holly is ready to compete.”