Holly, we’re very excited to be speaking to you. You have achieved a huge amount as an athlete. You’re the current British pole vaulting record holder, with your best clearance being 4.87 metres (2012 indoors). You won a bronze medal at the 2012 World Indoor Championships, a gold medal at the 2013 European Indoor Championships, a bronze medal at the 2018 European Championships and a silver medal at the 2019 European Indoor Championships. You’ve represented Great Britain twice at the Olympics and you’re currently ranked 4th in the world. That must give you a lot of confidence going into preparations for Tokyo next year. Can you talk us through your training for Tokyo?
Coming off the back of a great 2018 and 2019 season, there isn’t really much to change – just small tweaks to make. The main issue I’ve faced over the years has been injuries, and therefore missing out on training and major champs. I have built some momentum over the last two years and we will capitalise on this in 2020 in the run-up to Tokyo. We’re going to transition from 14 steps to 16 steps and take a slightly longer pole, so I will be working on that in training during January.
What are your hopes for Tokyo?
I don’t really like to set medal or height targets – with sport, and especially pole vault, anything can happen, but there are six to eight women in the world who on the day can win an Olympic medal – and I consider myself one of those. My aim is to deliver a medal-winning performance at Tokyo and hope it’s enough.
Which event has meant most to you, and why?
Obviously competing in a home Olympic games was incredible. Everything about that was special but I was very young at the time so I didn’t fully appreciate how amazing it was. I think Berlin in 2018 was very special too, as I had been struggling with injuries for a couple of years and 2018 was a breakthrough for me not only in terms of performance and consistency but also in getting my body back to full health.
When you started pole vaulting, was it scary? Have you ever had any accidents vaulting?
Nah, I’m kinda crazy anyway so I just found it fun and challenging. I have had a few incidents but that’s never put me off. It’s what I love doing and I get a buzz after a nice jump so no incident or crash will ever put me off.
What’s your diet like? What do you eat in a typical day? Does this change when you’re coming up to a competition?
I have a healthy balanced lifestyle – I don’t follow a specific diet; I just try to eat meals that are high in protein and veggies, then control my carbohydrates around training. If I have a heavy training day then I will have higher carbs, and on lower training days I decrease the carbs. I generally have eggs for breakfast with homemade granola or porridge, then lunch and dinners vary from home-cooked dinners such as curries, stews, etc. to salads. I cook everything from scratch so I know exactly what has gone into it.
What does your training schedule look like?
Typical training is:
Monday: Accels or speed, pole vault (short),plyos
Tuesday: Explosive throw, weights
Wednesday: Gymnastics and low-intensity running
Friday: Pole vault (long) and weights
Saturday: Long running and circuits
How much do you travel for competitions, and how much does it affect your life?
When it’s the season time I travel most weeks all over the world. It’s what I’m used to now; it’s all I’ve ever done since I was 18. I just want to make the most of it while I’m still an athlete: once I retire and start a family, I can imagine my passport will get a lot less use. I am very lucky to do the travelling that I do. I am answering these questions sitting on a plane heading to South Africa for training camp – it’s pretty hectic this time of year! Straight away when I get back from warm weather training (WWT) I am into indoors competitions and travelling again.
As a girl, did you feel under any pressure to give up athletics when you were a teenager?
Absolutely not. Sport is all I’ve ever known and I’ve always enjoyed it. My parents were super supportive with anything I wanted to do, and all my friends were sporty too. When my friends started going out partying, I knew I wanted to make the Olympics more than partying so I found it easy to stay at home and go bed early.
Do you have any superstitions or pre-event rituals you have to do?
Nope. I have tried not to be like that – in the pole vault, you don’t want anything getting in your head as it’s such a scary event. If you have the slightest doubt or anything is playing on your mind, it just hinders you. The only thing I religiously do is write a timeline before every competition so I know what I’m doing and when.
Do you have a pair of lucky socks that you wear for competitions?
Ha! I used to jump in jazzy long socks when I was younger, but now I’m just very particular with the length of my socks. They have to be a neutral colour and mid-calf.
What’s your favourite treat?
I would say the cookies from my local coffee shop Bom Bom.
Thank you for sharing your article on adversity with MK Distance Project (https://mkdistanceproject.co.uk/news/overcoming-adversity-by-holly-bradshaw). Can you tell us about a time when you had to be resilient and get over adversity?
Every time I’ve been injured! Between 2014 and 2017 I had a surgery every year: I missed training, couldn’t pole vault, and missed multiple major champs. That was a very hard time for me, but staying positive and looking forward helped me to overcome these times and actually become a better athlete.
Do you have training in mental toughness as well as physical fitness? How important do you think your mind is in achieving athletics success?
I speak to my psychologist often and we tackle any issues I have. Sometimes we do training to work on my resilience but every training session and competition has its own challenges which you have to negotiate, so each is an opportunity to learn and get better.
Do you ever wish you could give up athletics and lead a ‘normal’ life?
I did sometimes when I was injured, but my love for the sport always took over. My husband and I look forward to leading a normal life afterwards – we’ll move back home near our families and have children – but for now we’re enjoying every minute of the athletics life. It’s nice to know that, after athletics, we will start another exciting chapter in our lives.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not training?
I enjoy studying for my psychology masters, making coffee, and relaxing watching Netflix.
How often do you go out and have people recognise you?
Ha!! Er, I wouldn’t say it happens often, but it does sometimes. It’s usually when I go home to Lancashire, and over the last two years it’s started to happen more frequently.
Holly, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to us. We wish you all the best for the upcoming season, especially the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Follow Holly on Twitter: @HollyBradshawPV and Facebook: @OfficialHollyBradshaw
Interview: copyright MK Distance Project and Jane Hammett.