Bleasdale swift to raise the bar but keeps her feet on ground

Holly Bleasdale has come a long way in a short space of time. Yesterday lunchtime she was sitting alongside Christine Ohuruogu as one of the star attractions at the press conference for the Aviva World Trials and National Championships, which open at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham this evening.

Back in August 2008, when Ohuruogu was striking gold in the Olympic 400m final in Beijing, Bleasdale was struggling to make the grade as a schoolgirl heptathlete. "I did the heptathlon at the English Schools' Championships," she recalled. "I was third going into the last event and ended up 12th. I could never do the 800m. I was never fit enough."

It was only in October 2008, two months after Ohuruogu's Olympic triumph, that Bleasdale first picked up a vaulting pole. One month out from the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, and twelve months away from the London Olympics, the 19-year-old from Euxton in Lancashire is sitting in joint fourth place in the world rankings in the pole vault. Ohuruogu is joint 32nd in the 400m.

It is just as well that Debbie Bleasdale gave her daughter a gentle shove in the right direction when Holly wanted to stay in the car rather than take part in one of Julie Raffalli's pole vault taster sessions on a bleak, rain-sodden October day in Blackburn. "I was really nervous about trying something new," Bleasdale said. "I needed someone there pushing me out and I'm glad my mum did it."

It just so happened that Mrs Bleasdale was sitting listening to her daughter at the back of the press conference room in Birmingham yesterday. British athletics has reason to be grateful for her encouraging parental push.

Competing in Mannheim, Germany, on 2 July, Holly improved her personal best by 17cm in one afternoon, sailing past Kate Dennison's British-record height by 10cm with a clearance of 4.70m. A week later, in a downpour at the Diamond League meeting in Birmingham, she claimed the scalps of Fabiana Murer, the reigning world indoor champion from Brazil, and Svetlana Feofanova, the European champion from Russia. The week after that she won the European Under-23 title.

At a recent 2012 briefing with journalists in London, Charles van Commenee, the hard-to-please head coach of UK Athletics, chastised himself for repeatedly mentioning Bleasdale in glowing terms. The Dutchman is a big fan of the Lancashire lass who until recently was working part-time at Punchinello's Italian restaurant in Chorley.

"London is not too soon for Holly," Van Commenee ventured to suggest. "She has an interesting mind. She is a typically no-nonsense girl. It is between her and the bar, and what others do is their business. That is a good attitude. It is the art of competing. She is very down to earth and has an inspiring coach who does not get carried away with instant success. They don't start dreaming. They take things as they are."

Bleasdale is six places, and 10cm, ahead of Yelena Isinbayeva in the world rankings, the Russian Olympic champion and world record holder who is on the comeback trail (and who competes in the Diamond League meeting in Stockholm tonight) after taking a sabbatical. Not that the upwardly mobile yet down to earth Bleasdale considers her elevated status to equate to an automatic medal challenge at the looming World Championships.

"People have said, 'You should go there for a medal', but there are a lot of girls who have been jumping for a long time and who can consistently clear 4.70m," the Blackburn Harrier said. "I think I need to get the consistency before I go there all confident of a medal.

"I think it'll be good experience for London. But if I make the final, anything can happen, depending on the conditions. You saw in the Diamond League meeting here, if it rains it stands me in good stead."

By its very nature, the pole vault has attracted some of the great eccentrics of track and field. "I think I've always been a bit crazy, not like a girly girl," Bleasdale confessed. "Stuck up trees, aged three," her mother added.

Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
i100(More than you think)
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey


Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game