HOLLY Bradshaw admits she has rediscovered her ‘inner confidence’ and believes she has earned her place among the world’s elite pole vaulters.

The Chorley star, who celebrates her 28th birthday this week, has enjoyed the most successfully season of her career – a feat that earned her a place on the shortlist for the British athlete of the year.

Bradshaw won both the indoor and outdoor British titles, picked up a silver medal at the European Indoor Championships and, last month, finished in fourth place at the World Athletics Championships in Doha in what is considered the greatest ever women’s pole vault competition.

Now the Blackburn Harrier, who admitted she previously felt ‘detached’ from medallists on the world stage will certainly be in the mix at the Tokyo Olympics next year.

In Doha, Bradshaw cleared 4.80m and was in contention for a bronze medal until reigning world champion Katerina Stefanidi pipped her with 4.85m to finish third behind Anzhelika Sidorova (4.95m) and Sandi Morris (4.90m).

“It was the best competition of all time,” said Bradshaw. “We had 12 girls over 4.70m and six over 4.80m which is the best comp of all time.

“So for me to finish fourth in that is just incredible.”

Free from injury and in top form, Bradshaw is looking forward to the challenges ahead.

“I feel like over the last two years, especially the last year, I feel I have gained an inner confidence that I had when I was younger which I lost a little bit between 2013 and 2017 after all the injuries I had,” she said.

“I felt like I was detached from the medallists while this year I really felt like if circumstances were different in Doha, I could have popped up a 4.85m and been a medallist.

“So now I am really confident and looking forward to next year.”

Bradshaw will now turn her attentions to Tokyo and as a ‘seasoned athlete’ she says she is not worried about competing on the biggest stage.

“I am not going to do the World Indoor Championships, it kind of doesn’t work with my preparation for the Olympics,” she added.

“I will do a bit of an indoor season but not the majors so the next big thing for me is Tokyo and the European Champs in Paris as well.

“But everything is focussed on Tokyo.

“I am now such a seasoned athlete that nothing fazes me in a competition environment.

“In Doha, I came in at 4.60m in the qualification that was my highest ever opening bar so I was really impressed with how I conducted

myself there and I feel like it is great now working towards Tokyo.”

Reflecting on Doha, Bradshaw said she went through every emotion before declaring she was happy with her performance.

“In the moment, I didn’t really know how to feel, it was an emotion I had never experienced before because I felt like I executed the best I could and came so close to winning a medal,” she said.

“I was gutted not to have got the bronze because I felt at points during the competition, I was going to win it. But then obviously I was super happy to have finished fourth, jump 4.80m, one centimetre off the British record and execute myself in a really good way.

“So it was a really strange emotion because I have always been really happy or really disappointed whereas this time I was caught somewhere in the middle. But now on reflection I am really happy.”

While medals are always the main aim for Bradshaw and her rivals, she says camaraderie and competition go hand-in-hand on the pole vault circuit.

“That is the good thing about being involved in the pole vault,” she added. “You are out there for so long. You are on the circuit for so many weeks together, you really get to know each other.

“It really is about going out and doing your best and if someone else has done better, then fair play to them.

“And that is kind of what happened on the day (in Doha). I went out there and gave it as good as I could, it’s just that there were three girls that were better and I am ok with that.

“I’m not bitter and I am happy that they got the medals. I think that is why the pole vault is so special. I was just sat there chatting to my friends and enjoying myself.”

After such an impressive year that also including a top five finish in the Diamond League final, Bradshaw was disappointed that the season came to a sudden halt after Doha.

She said: “That was a weird thing, you usually peak for the majors. Basically you have these blinkers on which are ‘ok that was the Olympic final, that’s the World final I’m going until then’ and usually you have six or seven meets after, whether you have done good or bad, you are usually in the shape of your life and you get to compete after.

“I feel like in that final I was in the shape of my life and it just stopped right there.”

Bradshaw will now go away and work on using longer poles and run-up and also attempt to keep it clean to boost her medal hopes.

“In the past I have been burnt by not having clean cards,” she said. “In London, I missed out on a bronze on count back, in the Commonwealth Games I missed out on bronze on count back so I have definitely been burnt in the past.

“In Doha, I cleared 4.80m second time that put me in bronze position but ultimately I came fourth because of that but I feel like there are so many positives to take away.

She added: “I’ve got a few more things to improve. I am going to go on to the longer poles and the longer run-up which will give me more speed which will equate to more points.

“I definitely feel like it is going to take 4.90m to win a medal next year, maybe even the gold, and I feel like I can do that.”