Bleasdale hopes home wind can generate medal - Athletics - Olympics - The Independent

Bleasdale hopes home wind can generate medal

Promising British pole-vaulter thrived during blustery qualifiers

That a home crowd can lift home athletes to unforeseen heights is the known unknown of an Olympic Games. It is unquantifiable, although that has not stopped those in charge of UK Sport from trying to do so, but it is there. Britain is overachieving in London and home advantage is part of the reason. Holly Bleasdale will have to overachieve in the women's pole vault if she is to claim gold tonight, but that does not mean it will not happen.

It is not just the crowd that might provide a home advantage. Step forward the British weather. During Saturday morning's qualifying competition the blustery conditions made vaulting difficult – difficult enough that Fabiana Murer, the form athlete, failed to make it through to tonight's final.

The Brazilian had been heavily fancied to offer the sternest challenge Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva has yet faced to her standing as Olympic champion. But Murer failed to clear 4.55m and departed, blaming the British weather.

Tonight's forecast in London is wet and blustery – just the way the 20-year-old from Preston prefers it. No pole-vaulter likes the wind as it makes the event much tougher and it can open up the field. It made for a testing qualifying session.

"I felt really good but I was very nervous," said Bleasdale. "I never felt something like that in my entire life, but crowd lifted me. I wanted to take it easy but it turned out to be a hard competition. I will now be trying to settle down. My legs are so tired."

She had yesterday to recover and will go into the final, the first of five in the stadium tonight, as one of the medal contenders.

Isinbayeva, who has been breaking world records in the event for nine years, remains favourite, not least for her formidable record in the Olympics. The 30-year-old from Volgograd won gold in Athens and Beijing – both with world records – but it is what has happened since the 2008 Games that has stirred the possibility that she may after all be beatable.

After a run of relatively poor results she decided to take a break from the sport. When she returned it was once again in partnership with Yevgeny Trofimov, the man who had first coached her in the sport. Form, though, continued to prove elusive and at last year's World Championships she came sixth.

A winter's training since may have done the trick. In March she won the world indoor title for the fourth time. On Saturday she was the leading qualifier, along with the American Jennifer Suhr, who will also be a contender. "I feel in top form," Isinbeyeva said.

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