BLACKBURN Harrier Holly Bleasdale soared to the top of the world rankings as she sealed her place on the British team for the European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg.
Pole vaulter Bleasdale, who finished sixth in the London Olympic final, maintained her unbeaten start to the year with a third-time clearance at 4.77m, moving above the Olympic champion, Jennifer Suhr (4.76m), in the 2013 standings.
The 21-year-old failed with three attempts at a new personal best and British record of 4.90m – a height only world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva has cleared indoors – but Bleasdale remains in confident mood after seeing winter changes to her technique pay off.
“When I jumped 4.77m I knew there was a lot more even though I am still not quite clicking everything together like in training,” said Bleasdale, who switched coaches during the winter and now splits her time between Arizona and Cardiff.
“Once I do that I will easily be clearing bars like that. It was the biggest pole I have ever used and I was so tired I thought I was going to land in the box, but my coach told me what I was doing wrong and so I will know for next time.”
Bleasdale won bronze at the World Indoors in Istanbul last year and is optimistic of doing better in Gothenburg next month with this leap meaning she starts as one of the favourites for gold in the absence of Russian Isinbayeva.
She added: “I’m pretty confident I can go there and win gold. I’m very positive.
“I’ve jumped against most of the girls who will be there. Isinbayeva is not doing it and neither is Silke (Spiegelburg). There are a couple of girls who can jump 4.60 metres or 4.70m but if I go there and do 4.80m I think that will be enough to win.”
Bleasdale is now coached in Cardiff by American Dan Pfaff – a coaching all-rounder who guided Greg Rutherford to long jump glory at London 2012.
And Bleasdale believes that has had a key impact on her staggering start to the season.
“The technical impact he’s had has been really good and I’m feeling better in the vault,” she said. “The main thing he wanted to change was my run-up. Ever since I started pole vaulting I’ve just sprinted full on from the start of my run-up but Dan said I was not being productive in using the speed.
“Instead of working at 100 per cent on the run-up he said that if you work at 90 per cent and are much more controlled, then you carry more speed into the vault.
“I think when I jumped 4.87 it was a bit ahead of where I really was last year. It was great that I jumped it but I would have preferred to have a bunch of 4.80s instead of just one 87.
“I also think outdoors, when I look back, my average was probably around 4.40. I feel the changes have made me a much better athlete and going into this year’s outdoor season I’d be confident my average would be a lot higher than 4.40.”