By Tum Balogun, Sportsbeat
The Ashurst family’s illustrious pole vaulting tradition is spurring on its newest member, Sophie, to reach uncharted heights.
The 19-year-old is a rising star of the sport in Britain and fresh off an encouraging sixth-place finish at the World Athletics Under-20 Championships.
As the daughter of 1986 Commonwealth Games champion Andy Ashurst, Sophie has been immersed in the sport since childhood.
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Stuart Pearce tried a few out on a recent trip to @thameunitedfc!
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And she revealed contests with her dad, who is her coach when not at Loughborough University, have helped to improve her performances.
“I've basically just grown up with pole vault,” Ashurst said.
“I started when I was eight and he’s coached me ever since then, and it’s quite inspiring because he still pole vaults.
“We’re very competitive with each other, we train together and his current season’s best is 4.10m and mine is 4.15m.
“So we’re really competitive and spur each other on, especially when we’re in the weights room.
“I don’t want to get beaten by my dad.”
Before starting her undergraduate study in sports science at Loughborough University, the teenager honed her craft with Sale Harriers.
An eye-catching 2021, where she won Under-20 National/European trial honours as well as setting a new English Schools Championship best of 4.21m, was followed up by that strong display at the Junior World Championships in Colombia.
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Only nine centimetres off the qualification mark for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, Ashurst has her sights firmly set on Brisbane in four years’ time.
But she was keen to recognise the support which has aided her journey thus far.
Ashurst is one of a select few athletes on SportsAid’s cohort of athletes sponsored by Entain - owner of Ladbrokes and Coral – as part of their grassroots sports investment programme called Pitching In.
Ashurst believes the funding, which proved particularly vital when she moved to university, has enabled her to test herself at a number of events she otherwise would have been unable to attend.
“The grant from SportsAid has been really helpful,” she added.
“Travel to competitions and my accommodation is quite an expense - in the indoor season I went to about ten different competitions all around the country.
“So getting there and getting my poles there was quite difficult.
“Having that money really helped - I thought it really helped me because I was chasing to get the qualifying for the world juniors and with that money it’s allowed me to go to different competitions.
“I got to go to France in February and I used that money towards that.”
Entain, owner of Ladbrokes and Coral, is proud to be championing the next generation of British sporting heroes by providing talented young athletes with financial support and personal development opportunities in partnership with SportsAid. Visit entaingroup.com to find out more