Bleasdale falls short as nerves take their toll

 

The Olympic Stadium

It just wasn't meant to be for the Lancashire lasses of track and field at London 2012. Poor Jenny Meadows and Helen Clitheroe, two stalwarts and international championship medal-winning stars of the British athletics brigade, have both been banjaxed by injury in this summer of summers and failed to make the selection cut for the Games.

Holly Bleasdale made it all right and went into the women's pole vault last night with serious designs on a podium finish. The 20-year-old from Euxton, near Chorley, won a bronze medal at the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul in March and started the competition ranked third of the 12 finalists on lifetime bests.

Sadly, it was not to be for the budding Holly (inset), who possesses a huge reserve of natural talent but remains short on experience as a first-year senior. When it came to the big occasion, the Blackburn Harrier was unable to rise to it.

In January she achieved the third-highest indoor clearance of all time, 4.87m, and at the Olympic trials in June she raised her outdoor British record to 4.71m. Last night, though, she struggled to get over 4.45m – succeeding at the third and final attempt – but could venture no higher.

After a third failure at 4.55m, Bleasdale cradled her head in her palms in resignation and was unable to hold back the tears before trudging to the side of the track to be consoled by her coach, Julien Raffalli. It was a second successive disappointment at a senior global championship for her to digest. At the World Championships in Daegu last summer she failed to register a height in qualifying.

Still, the fact that joint-sixth place in an Olympic final – behind the Jennifer Suhr, of the US, Cuba's Yarisley Silva and Russia's Elena Isibayeva, who filled the medal places in the order – qualified as a major setback showed just how far Bleasdale had come in a short space of time.

It was only in the autumn of 2008 that she first picked up a vaulting pole – at a "taster" session on a rainy day in Blackburn, run by Raffalli. "I remember sitting in the car, feeling really nervous, not wanting to get out," Bleasdale recalled. "My mum pushed me out and I'm glad she did. Had the session not been on, I don't think I would have become a pole-vaulter, I would probably still be doing the hurdles and the heptathlon."

Raffalli is a former French Under-20 pole-vault champion. He moved to Manchester on a six-month work contract but stayed, married a local girl and started coaching in the North-west.

Bleasdale's rise has been meteoric: world junior bronze medallist in 2010, European Under-23 champion in 2011 and world indoor bronze medallist in March this year.

She received a huge roar from the capacity 80,000 crowd when the finalists were introduced last night. The opening height was 4.30m but Bleasdale did not enter the competition until the bar was raised to 4.45m. After being given the big build-up by the stadium announcer as she stood on the runway she dislodged the bar with her first attempt.

When she sent the bar flying again with her second attempt, the pressure was on for her third and final effort. With Raffalli urging the crowd to up the volume of their rhythmic clapping, she showed her true grit, sailing over the bar to a deafening cheer. "Yes," she mouthed on her way down to the landing bed.

At 4.55m, though, Bleasdale struggled to get in to the groove again. With her first attempt she ducked under the bar. She was ready to set off for her second attempt but the competition was held up for the men's 3,000m steeplechase medal ceremony. Once again, her composure was shot. She ducked under the bar for a second time, clutching her hands to her face in despair before heading to the edge of the track for some steadying words of advice from Raffalli.

Sadly, it was not to be. At the third attempt Bleasdale knocked off the bar on the way down. The road to Rio starts here.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
people
Sport
SPORT
News
people
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Biggins as Mrs Smee in Peter Pan
theatreHow do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick