Holly Bleasdale relishing role as a pantomime villain
Pole vaulter aiming to beat Poland's home favourite Anna Rogowska at World Indoors
Wednesday 05 March 2014
Holly Bleasdale cuts an unlikely villain. The 22-year-old pole vaulter, who understatedly describes her job as "flinging myself over a bar with a stick", could hardly be more bubbly and affable.
But there is a possibility that Bleasdale will be public enemy No 1 in Poland if she upsets home hopes at this week's World Indoors. Anna Rogowska could not be much more of a home favourite having been born in Gdynia, barely a few pole lengths up the coast from host city Sopot, plus there is the fact she is ranked No 1 in the world and the expectation is that she will come away with gold.
It's hard to imagine Bleasdale having previous with anyone but she and her Polish rival have exactly that – dating back to last year's European Indoor Championships when they finished tied for first. The athletes were given the option to share the gold or go for a jump-off. Rogowska went for the former but Bleasdale pushed for the latter from which she came away with the gold.
A year on, she is unapologetic and would do the same again even if it means upsetting the home supporters.
"Last year she wanted to share the gold and I refused. I wanted to fight for it and beat her," says Bleasdale.
"That's the fire in me. I'm surprised that she didn't want to fight for the gold. It showed to me that she was weak in that situation. I'd rather have got silver than shared gold. I'm such a fighter and competitor that I don't want to share gold with someone.
"I want to fight for the gold for my own and I was ready to risk losing that. I felt really confident. I knew that she was done and tired, psychologically a bit weak. It paid off."
That past encounter, not to mention the home support, will be a driving factor for Rogowska, who Bleasdale admits might still have a certain amount of acrimony towards her.
"I think she was a little bit upset," she adds. "I could tell she wasn't happy. But I wanted to win gold for GB and not win it joint with Poland. This time, there's going to be quite a few girls going for the gold and obviously Anna's not going to win the gold if other people do. That inspires me to take her down even more."
The pole vault will enjoy something of a novelty at these championships of being the showpiece event in Sopot, the noise inside the 10,000-seater Ergo Arena expected to be defeaning, although Bleasdale insists she is so focused she cannot even hear someone shouting her name in her ear. Back and Achilles problems effectively wiped out her 2013 season after claiming European Indoor gold. She describes having to miss out on last year's World Championships as "heartbreaking" but has been vaulting consistently over the 4.70m mark this season.
Bleasdale is undeniably one of the British team's best shots of gold. It is the sole goal she aspires to, even if it means leaving Sopot vilified by a disgruntled Polish public.
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