I almost walked away from pole vault, admits British bronze star Holly Bradshaw

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Holly Bradshaw admitted she considered quitting the pole vault before clinching bronze to make British Olympic history in Tokyo.

The 29-year-old finished behind the USA’s Katie Nageotte and the ROC’s Anzhelika Sidorova to further boost Team GB in the Olympic Stadium following the return of Dina Asher-Smith.

She is the first British athlete to win a pole vault medal at an Olympic Games but when she came sixth at the World Championships in London 2017 a combination of personal doubts and social media criticism left her thinking about walking away.

She said: “You have glimpses in your pole vault career where it keeps you going. I’ll be on the edge of thinking, ‘what am I doing?’ There were definitely times I thought I might walk away from the sport.

“The injuries were tough and the pressure I put myself under but since 2018 I’ve never thought like that. I’ve absolutely loved it.

“I meet some incredible people and have some incredible relationships. It just makes the sport so special. I always thought I’d keep going and stay in the sport because at the core it’s what I love doing. I love pole vaulting.

“The start of my career leading up to 2012 I didn’t put a step wrong. While that was good in the moment, I didn’t really learn much about myself and the event. So then the four years leading to Rio and 2017 were really difficult.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – Day Thirteen
Bradshaw has had several near misses in her career (Martin Rickett/PA)

“I had so many injuries, I put so much pressure on myself, I just got myself in a really dark hole where I didn’t want to be and it wasn’t me.

“In 2018 I had to change a lot of my inner values, work on myself and change stuff to enjoy it more. Since then I just feel like I love what I’m doing, whether I come sixth, fourth, first in any competition it doesn’t matter.

“It’s about me jumping, enjoying it and enjoying the journey. The last four years I’ve just been building, building, building.”

Bradshaw finished sixth at London 2012 and fifth five years ago in Rio having also come fourth at the World Championships in 2019 before ending her agonising run in Japan.

Only three competitors along with Bradshaw – Sidorova, Nageotte and Katerina Stefanidi – cleared 4.70m to go into a straight shootout for the podium.

Bradshaw cleared 4.80m at her second attempt, with the bar wobbling, before going over 4.85m first time.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – Day Thirteen
Bradshaw won her first Olympic medal in Tokyo (Martin Rickett/PA)

Defending champion Stefanidi’s failure at 4.85m and 4.90m guaranteed Bradshaw a medal but she could not clear the new height and secured bronze.

Her medal was just Team GB’s second in athletics after Keely Hodgkinson’s 800m silver on Tuesday.

Bradshaw added: “I’m still in shock. I don’t know what emotions I’m feeling right now, It’s a mixture of so many emotions. It’s a weird feeling. I just want to speak to my family and hang out with my coach.”

It also came after Asher-Smith’s successful return to the track after last week’s drama.

The 25-year-old saw her Games wrecked by a hamstring injury she suffered in June and pulled out of the 200 metres after failing to reach the 100m final last week.

She helped the 4x100m relay team set a new British record of 41.55 seconds to win their heat and reach the final.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – Day Thirteen
Asher-Smith ran the third leg of the relay in Tokyo (Joe Giddens/PA)

The world 200m champion said: “It (winning a medal) would be absolutely amazing but again that is not the thing I think about right now. It is about staying focused.

“That is where my head has been for the past week. It hasn’t been in what happened. It hasn’t been about the 100m or 200m. It has been about me getting back on the training track and making sure I bring my absolute A-game to this race.

“Of course, it (a medal) would mean incredible things to everybody. We are the bronze medallists in Rio. It would be amazing for us to get another medal again, for all of us, for all of our lives, for all of our individual dreams and aspirations.

“To get that we have to stay focused and make sure we execute and do what needs to be done.

“After the 100m I did say there was no way I wasn’t going to be here for the 4x100m girls. I only had one day off then John (Blackie, coach) had me back on the training track.

“Essentially all I need is a few more weeks and sessions. He was saying if I had a few more days it would have been the 100m final, another week and it would have been 10.8. It’s one of those things where I’m chasing times.”

The British team qualified for Friday’s final fastest, ahead of the USA and Germany.

The men’s 4x100m relay team finished second in their heat to reach the final. CJ Ujah, Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, Richard Kilty and Zharnel Hughes clocked 38.02 seconds.

The women’s 4x400m squad of Emily Diamond, Zoey Clark, Laviai Nielsen and Nicole Yeargin reached the final after coming third in their heat while Jake Wightman, Josh Kerr and Jake Heyward reached the 1,500m final.

Andrew Pozzi came seventh in the 110m hurdles final – which was won by Jamaica’s Hansle Parchment.

Morgan Lake also reached the high jump final after clearing the automatic qualifying height of 1.95m.

Defending champion Nafi Thiam retained her heptathlon title after Katarina Johnson-Thompson pulled out of the competition on Wednesday with a calf injury.

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