Nearly chopping my finger off is all part of the chaos – pole vault champion Molly Caudery

Molly Caudery
Los Angeles 2028 seemed like Molly Caudery's best chance of an Olympic medal until her stellar indoor season - Bernat Armangue/AP Photo

“They say fight fire with fire… I meet chaos with chaos,” says Molly Caudery, laughing at those crucial, supposedly meticulously planned, days leading up to being crowned Britain’s first world pole vault champion earlier this month.

“Tuesday morning, I’m driving to the track – I’ve got an interview with the BBC, and I’ve tied my poles on the car when the garage door falls off,” she says. “Then the roof rack comes off my car with the poles on. So the poles are hanging over the front of my car.

“I call Scott [Simpson, her coach] and I’m: ‘My roof rack has come off, my poles are off’. He’s like: ‘OK, I’ll come and get you’.

“Later that day I spilt scalding tea all over my lap. My partner’s exactly the same as well. We lose everything. You can always come back from little mishaps. It’s just little things that happen in my daily life… like chopping my finger off.”

That is in reference to how her finger was only saved following an emergency specialist operation that required a Christmas Eve journey from Cornwall to Derby in 2021 after she somehow jammed her hand between a weight rack and the bar. And then there are the childhood stories of a fractured foot and fingers, as well as managing to twice break her nose while trampolining. Mr. Bump evidently has nothing on her.

Caudery's X-ray of her fractured index finger
Caudery had to drive to Derby from Cornwall on Christmas Eve to save her finger - Molly Caudery/Instagram

And yet listening to Caudery represents a wonderful antidote to the precise marginal gains we are so often sold in elite sport, even if the finger incident did provoke Simpson into action. “He sat me down in the nicest way possible and just said: ‘You need to try and be better’,” says Caudery. “He meant as in, ‘Just try and contain yourself a little bit. Don’t trip over your own feet.’

“Scott has had to learn to deal with the natural chaos because it’s just a part of me. I think he’s found it quite difficult to manage but now he just accepts it and we move on. I do wrap myself in cotton wool a little bit and I do joke about it but it is a very serious thing. As I’m getting older, maybe I’ll grow out of it.”

That ‘cotton wool’ will now have to be applied in Auckland, with Caudery taking the unusual step over these next six weeks of relocating to New Zealand where Simpson, who was once also based at Loughborough, has become a national coach.

Simpson is also training Eliza McCartney, who finished second to Caudery at the World Indoor Championships, and his departure represents a considerable blow to British Athletics.

Molly Caudery hugs Eliza McCartney
Caudery will train alongside her friend and rival Eliza McCartney in New Zealand - Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

“It’s been a very natural changeover but it does mean I’m going to be going to the other side of the world in an Olympic year,” says Caudery. “I can’t be away from Scott because he’s such an incredible coach. New Zealand athletics have been so accepting of me joining them. I spoke to the head coach and she just said: ‘Why wouldn’t we want another athlete to come in and push our athletes?’ They’re welcoming me with open arms.”

Jack Buckner, the chief executive of UK Athletics, is evidently still hoping to coax Simpson back eventually into a British system which has had precious little field event success over recent years. “I’m not panicking... sometimes you have got to gently let people go through the thought process that they are going through,” said Buckner. “He knows he can come and talk to me any time – he knows I’ve got his back.”

Now 24, Caudery had previously always assumed that the 2028 Los Angeles Games would represent her best chance to end Britain’s 40-year wait for an Olympic female field event champion.

That forecast has had to be rapidly revised following a stellar winter that, alongside her gold medal in Glasgow, included a world-leading 4.86m clearance in Rouen. As well as the Paris Olympics, she will also go for the European Championships in Rome in June. “It feels a bit like a dream,” she says of a month that suddenly saw her go from being largely known only in athletics circles to primetime in the BBC studio with her hero Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill. Caudery’s Instagram following now also stands at almost 250,000.

Caudery cleared 4.80m to take gold
Caudery cleared 4.80m to take gold - Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

“There was maybe, like, one per cent of me that thought I could get a medal or the gold,” she says. “I keep talking to my family and I’m like: ‘Oh, I just won a gold medal at the World Championships’. When I say it out loud, it just sounds crazy.

“For the two days before competing I could barely sleep because I was just so nervous, just almost like tingling non-stop. Each competition I’m starting to believe it a little bit more. I definitely felt what people call impostor syndrome after the worlds last year.

“Actually in the spotlight is not where my nerves are. They’re more just on the runway. My first attempt, I felt like I was made of jelly.”

Having earned her first sponsorship deal from Adidas earlier this year, she remains utterly unaffected by the success following a journey that began in the unlikely surrounds of Carn Brea Leisure Centre in Redruth, which has the only athletics facility in her home county of Cornwall.

She was initially coached by her father Stuart, an athlete who competed at a club level in everything from cross country, steeplechase and sprint hurdles to the high jump, long jump and pole vault. A further crucial foundation was provided at a no-nonsense gymnastics club between the ages of four and 11. The two broken nose incidents happened while attempting back flips on a trampoline. The first was by kneeing herself in the face and the second by landing on one of the surrounding poles which, in her own matter-of-fact words, “just went straight in”. Gymnastics memories still make her both wince and smile. “At one point I was training 24 hours a week. As a 10-year-old I would miss a Tuesday of school to do eight hours of training.

“When I look back on that, it’s just insane. But I do think that kind of set my base for where I am now. As a 10-year-old, we were doing like three sets of 30 chin-ups.

“I actually had a really nice coach – he was great… there is definitely a different culture in gymnastics. I remember one time we did cheat on one of our conditioning sessions, and he said he had CCTV and was watching us. We did four minutes instead of five minutes sprinting on a squishy mat and he came back in and said: ‘Right, you are all doing this conditioning for the whole session.’

“So, four hours of leg conditioning. All of us were crying, and he was like: ‘You cannot stop.’ I remember my grandma picking me up and I was: ‘I don’t want to do it anymore.’ But, never again did we cheat a warm-up! It worked.

“A bit of tough love I guess… not that I’m condoning it but it was character building. Growing up, I used to do a lot of skiing and surfing and cliff jumping. I love competing. It’s so much fun. I never take anything too seriously. I’m just living my dream.”