Adrenaline junkie Molly Caudery targets even greater Olympic thrill

<span>Molly Caudery claimed the world indoor pole vault title in Glasgow.</span><span>Photograph: Bernat Armangué/AP</span>
Molly Caudery claimed the world indoor pole vault title in Glasgow.Photograph: Bernat Armangué/AP

Molly Caudery is an adrenaline junkie who loves surfing and jumping off cliffs near her home in Cornwall. But now she is chasing an even more spectacular thrill: winning an Olympic gold medal this summer. And the hugely likable and modest 23‑year‑old is starting to believe she can achieve it.

After twisting, flipping and soaring over a 4.8m bar to take the world indoor pole vault title on Saturday, she was asked whether she was the favourite for Paris. She paused, allowed what had once seemed like magical realism to sink in, and nodded.

“Yes,” she said. “It sounds like a lot of pressure, but I think I am starting to work out how to deal with it. It’s such a dream, isn’t it? But if I can just stay healthy and just consistently build my training and get to the Olympics on that start line, we’ll see what happens.”

Related: ‘It was emotional’: Britain’s Josh Kerr and Molly Caudery win gold in Glasgow

This time last year, few people outside track and field knew Caudery’s name. Injuries – including nearly losing her finger after a freak weightlifting accident that required three surgeries to fix – had slowed her progress. And then, suddenly, she achieved lift‑off.

“For the first time since maybe I was 17 years old, I have been injury-free and built some real consistency. Mentally I am stronger, physically I am stronger. A combination of all of that has set me higher.”

We knew she was talented. Improving her personal best from 4.6m to a world-leading 4.86m in a year told us that. As did finishing fifth at the 2023 world championships in Budapest. But in Glasgow Caudery proved something else: that she could absorb the jangling pressures of being a favourite against the best vaulters in the world and still hit the highest notes.

“It’s all happened very quickly for me,” says Caudery, who now has more than 200,000 followers on Instagram, behind only Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Dina Asher-Smith when it comes to British athletes.

“My plan was always for the 2028 Olympics and just to build until then. Then suddenly, after last year at the worlds, it has just snowballed into something that has happened really quickly. I am just trying to catch up to that and the emotions of that just keep coming out.”

Her performance on Saturday gave every impression of a genuine star being born. But, while she seemed to have ice in her veins, the reality was somewhat different.

“I was the most nervous I’ve ever been. I’d barely slept. Constantly my mind was going, but I’d been lucky enough to clear those bars over and over again this season. So I was like: ‘I know exactly what to do. I know exactly what pole to use.’ And I just used that confidence.”

It didn’t help that the French athlete Margot Chevrier appeared to break her ankle during the competition, an incident that deeply affected Cauldrey. “I did not keep my cool,” she admits. “I turned around and saw all this chaos. I’ve got quite bad eyesight, but I thought this doesn’t look right. Her foot was in the wrong direction. And then I saw red blood, tears came to my eyes.”

There were more tears after her gold medal. But now Caudrey plans to go on holiday before focusing on Paris. “I don’t overtrain – that’s been one huge thing through winter,” she says. “I just want to build a little bit each day and just take that into summer.”

Meanwhile as Caudery told her remarkable story, Josh Kerr was adding another chapter to his by adding the world indoor 3,000m title to his 1500m outdoor gold in Budapest – before facing a battery of questions from Norwegian journalists over his rivalry with Jakob Ingrebrigtsen. But, once more, the Scot took it all in his stride.

“There are going to end up being clashes,” he says. “That’s the way it goes. This is a very high level of sport. We are going to go head‑to‑head many times this season and it’s going to be a fantastic season in 1500m running. Look, I don’t think I am going to win them all, but I will win the right one, that’s my goal.”

Kerr even confessed to enjoying verbal sparring with the Norwegian, whom he accused of “having flaws in the manners realm” in January. “I’m a blabbermouth!” he says.

“It’s the same with my teammates, we go back and forth with each other all of the time. It’s part of training.

“Yeah, I have a bit of an ego, I enjoy talking a little bit of a smack here and there, it’s just where the story ends up being, but there is no ill-will.”

And when one reporter reminded Kerr that he had delivered in Budapest and Glasgow, before asking him: “Can you deliver in Paris?” he did not hesitate. “I’m the mailman, I guess.”