HOLLY Bleasdale has already shown she is a quick learner.
Less than four years ago the Blackburn Harrier had never even attempted pole vaulting – now she has soared among the world’s elite.
In one giant leap in Germany last summer, the 20-year-old suddenly went from being just another young hopeful to being looked upon as a genuine medal contender for London 2012.
Her jump of 4m 70 in Mannheim obliterated the British record and set a world record for her age group. Not even pole vaulting royalty Yelena Isinbayeva had hit such heights at Bleasdale’s age.
The Chorley jumper hasn’t stopped there either. A January jump in Lyon of 4m 87, half a meter taller than a London bus, has seen her move to fourth place in the all-time world rankings for the women’s pole vault. She is big news in the world of athletics.
Bleasdale has experienced blips along the way, none more so than when she failed to live up to expectations in the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, last year at her first major senior championships.
That is why her bronze medal in the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul earlier this month was more than just a bit of metal. It proved to the doubters she can mix it on the biggest stage.
“The medal was a big breakthrough for me,” she said. “It is alright saying you can jump this and that heights in certain competitions but it is different doing it in a championship.
“People go there not expecting to jump high. They go there to win a medal.
“At a championship it is all about staying composed and winning a medal.
“After Daegu I was a unsure if it was competing in a championship that affected me but I kept my confidence in Turkey and came back with a medal, which is perfect and exactly what I wanted to achieve.
“People have told me I didn’t perform well in Daegu because I couldn’t cope with the nerves but I didn’t feel like that.
“And it is nice that I have been able to back it up and showed I can compete with the rest of the girls in the world.
“It was perfect going to the world indoors. People were unsure whether it was the right move but I really wanted to do it and I have got so much out of it, learnt so much and the confidence I have gained from winning a medal was unbelievable.”
Bleasdale’s hadn’t even picked up a vaulting pole when Isinbayeva retained her Olympic crown in Beijing in 2008.
Now she will be one of the Russian’s biggest rivals and don’t rule her out from pulling off further shocks.
She said: “When I jumped to guarantee the bronze I was going crazy in my head and thinking ‘I have just won a medal in a major championships at the age of 20’ “People maybe criticised me for saying I lost my head but I did. That is something I am going to go back to work on with my psychologist.
“When I attempted 4m 65, they had my stands in the wrong place so I got to take my first jump again.
“It shows I can stay composed and that stands me in good stead for the Olympics.
“There are loads of things I am going to have to deal with and it is all about learning and getting the experience for it.”