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Bleasdale swaps her meltdown for solid gold ahead of World Championships bid
By IAN STAFFORD
PUBLISHED: 14:59 EST, 6 April 2013 | UPDATED: 14:59 EST, 6 April 2013
Holly Bleasdale promises that there will be no repeat of her Olympic nightmare this summer at the world championships following her golden success at the European indoors.
The 21-year-old pole vaulter's dreams fell apart in London's Olympic Stadium last August.
A medal contender before the Games, she faltered to sixth place in the final and left the stadium in tears and seemingly on the end of what appeared to be a public admonishment from her French coach, Julien Raffalli.
Seven months on, Bleasdale sits in a Cardiff coffee house, engaged to 25-year-old 800metre runner Paul Bradshaw, happy with a new coach and a European indoor gold medal after success in Gothenburg last month.
Understandably, she is also confident about her prospects for this summer's outdoor world championships in Moscow.
'My Olympics was a disaster,' she admitted. 'I'd won a bronze at the world indoors in the spring, but that only papered over the cracks. There were major deficiencies in my technique and tension was growing with my coach. By the time I got to the London Games, I was pretty fragile.
'Once I could see that the conditions for the Olympic final were windy, I knew I stood no chance. I didn't enjoy one moment of that competition.'
The day improved, however, when Bradshaw chose that moment to propose marriage.
'I thought it was a joke at first, plus I was starving,' recalled Bleasdale. 'But after I said "Yes", things began to look up.'
What changed her fortunes was swapping coaches and turning to the celebrated American, Dan Pfaff, who had enjoyed Olympic and Paralympic success with the likes of Greg Rutherford and Jonnie Peacock, as well as pole vaulters Steve Lewis and Australian Steve Hooker.
'Dan said he'd watched me in Daegu and at the Olympic holding camp, and he found it a struggle because I was so stressed and there were so many things fundamentally wrong.
'We both saw this as a positive - if I'd managed sixth in an Olympic final plus a world indoor bronze with a dreadful technique, the potential was obvious.
'Julien discovered me when I tried pole vault at my club in Blackburn in 2008. But his part-time job became full-time, which meant he was available for only two sessions a week. I knew if I wanted to be world-class I needed a change.'
Bleasdale moved to Cardiff to train alongside Lewis and coach Scott Simpson, then joined Pfaff's training camp for six weeks between November and Christmas and emerged a world beater on the indoor circuit.
'I'm holding the pole further back, which gives me better control, my run-up is structured and my head is so strong,' said Bleasdale.
So strong, in fact, that when offered a share of the European Indoor gold with Poland's defending champion Anna Rogowska, Bleasdale opted for a jump-off, at the risk of a silver.
'I wanted to win outright,' she said. 'I'm a very different girl now. I know I've only done it so far indoors, but I'm confident my new technique can cope with any conditions. You'll never see me disintegrate again like I did in London.'
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