Bleasdale is Celtic champ

Lancashire Telegraph: JUMP: Holly Bleasdale JUMP: Holly Bleasdale

Holly Bleasdale has overcome a serious injury to become a winner on her England debut at Sunday’s Celtic Indoor Cup in Cardiff while millions of BBC Television viewers saw Paul Bradshaw set a personal best at the Aviva Indoor Grand Prix at Birmingham on Saturday afternoon.

The 18-year-old Bleasdale has enjoyed an almost meteoric rise to the top since taking up the pole vault.

It all started when Blackburn Harriers asked the hurdler to make up the numbers in their Northern League Team to eke out a point or two for the team by clearing the opening height.

Then in October 2008, specialist vault coach Julian Raffalli came to watch her at Blackburn and invited her to train in Manchester for a six week trial period.

Now she trains several times a week at SportCity working on running, vaulting, vault gymnastics and weight training.

In 2009 her improvement was spectacular as she progressed from 3.10 metres to 4.05m and reach the European Junior Champ-ionship qualifying height.

In little more than six months, she won the Northern Indoor U20 Cham-pionships, the Lancashire U20 Championships with a games record, the Lancashire Schools’ Champ-ionships and the Northern U20 Championships, breaking the Blackburn Harriers’ U20 and senior women’s records numerous times along the way.

Then disaster struck at the English Schools’ Champion-ships when a bone in her foot snapped during her very first take off.

She has confounded the experts by the speed of her recovery and as we reported last week was fourth in the UK Indoor Senior Championships with a 3.95m clearance to earn her call for Cardiff.

She is still operating off a short run and can’t wear spikes, and the Runshaw College student admitted she was below her best as she took three attempts to clear her opening height of 3.66m before making 3.76m at the second time of asking.

Still it was enough for victory by 10 centimetres and it helped the England U20 Team to a comprehensive win over Ireland and Wales.

Now in her last year in the U20s, her aim for the outdoor season is the national age group record of 4.15m which would also give her the qualifying mark for the World Junior Champion-ships in Canada during July.

Like Bleasdale, Paul Bradshaw’s performance in the UK Indoor Champion-ships bore its reward with the top three in the men’s 800m being given the chance to set the World Indoor Championship qualifying time of 1:48.50 at the Birmingham Grand Prix.

The 22-year old Blackburn Harrier hadn’t originally intended to concentrate on the indoor season but after his silver medal at Sheffield couldn’t spurn the chance.

In a fast race, he ran at a controlled pace just behind the leaders, but tired over the last 200m to log 1:48.99 for sixth. Sheffield winner Andrew Osagie was third in 1:47.71 while Ed Aston, who Bradshaw had previously beaten by three one hundredths, was fifth in 1:48.24 to gain his qualifying time.

Bradshaw was still upbeat afterwards and the three Brits were boosted by encouragement from Ian Stewart and Brendan Foster.

To try and add that extra speed, he will be going to South Africa warm weather training shortly with training partners Jenny Meadows and Helen Clitheroe.

He has been given his chance by his “incredibly supportive” employers Runshaw College where he works as a sports technician.

He will be hoping some of the Meadows magic rubs off after the Wigan Harrier set a National Indoor record of 1:59.11 in the women’s 800m on Saturday, a tenth inside Dame Kelly Holmes’ seven year old record.

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