Tokyo 2020 - 'This is my moment' - Pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw going for Olympic gold
Holly Bradshaw has missed out on a medal in the last two Olympics, but she is hopeful that she has prepared well physically and mentally for the strangest of competition years. She says whoever deals with Covid restrictions best is likely to pick up a medal, and she thinks she has coped well for the past 14 months.
The Olympic Games have been a tricky hunting ground for pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw. In London she hit the bar at 4.55m, crashing out of medal contention. In Rio she couldn't get over 4.80m, and finished fifth.
Tokyo, she insists, will be different.
"I finished sixth in London, fifth in Rio, fourth in the world championships in 2019, so I definitely feel like I'm around in great shape. You know I've been doing this now for 10 years, I've been kind of operating in the top 10 in the world for that kind of period so it's not like a now-or-never type situation, but after the great indoor season I had, I just feel like this is my moment and I would say there's like six to eight girls that on the day could viably win a medal and I'm definitely one of them.
"I just need to do all I can to put myself in that position, stay healthy, stay confident. With pole vault, there's a lot of variables. All it takes is for one little variable to go against you on the day and you'll easily finish fourth, fifth.
All I can do is put myself in the best place, which I am doing and just hope that on the day I can deliver a performance which I intend to do and hope to bring back a medal."
Bradshaw finished third at the European Indoor Championships in March, and says that gives her a good foundation as she begins to work through her Olympic prep. She admits it's been tough to do the psychological prep via video call ("we were trying to do some visualisation - it was just really, really strange") but other than that she is just grateful to be able to train the best she can.
"It's quite methodical, my training," she says. "I have a nine-week training block leading into the outdoor season.
Belarus' Iryna Zhuk and Britain's Holly Bradshaw, bronze medallists at the European Indoors
Image credit: Getty Images
"When we get into starting to compete, it's going to start to feel real - June-time [are the] British champs where you can get the opportunity to qualify, book your ticket on the plane, I think that's when things start feeling real and that's when you're like, 'OK, it's round the corner now.'"
In fact, the only real down side for Bradshaw is that her parents won't be able to travel to Tokyo to cheer her on, although they had long had plans to fly over.
"My mum and dad, they don't really travel that much," she says. "Of course they came to watch me in the London Olympics and London World Champs because they were in this country - any competition in the UK they'll come. 2018 was the very first time that they ever watched me abroad, at the European champs in Berlin, so they had flights, accommodation, tickets for Tokyo - not that I've said Tokyo will be my last Olympics, but I said to them, 'Look, come to Tokyo. I know it's a long way. I know it's a lot of money but it will be so special.'
"And then now, the fact that they were coming, and they were so excited, and now they can't, it was heartbreaking.
But I'd rather it just go on, even if there isn't spectators. They're going to have a party at home."
The 29-year-old has her fingers crossed that the UK vaccine programme will reach her age category by the time the summer rolls around, although she has already had a bout of coronavirus which should have given her a dose of antibodies. Like all other athletes, her training has been altered massively by lockdown restrictions, but she says she does not worry about that.
"One of my biggest strengths as an athlete is I know going into majors, every single box I can tick - I've done absolutely everything that I can," she says. "Right now, things are so out of my control - I might not be able to go to this meet and then it's almost playing on my mind, well, have I prepared well enough? Should I have done the meet if I now have to quarantine? It is just a bit of a minefield.
"We're doing so well with the vaccine roll-out. We're smashing that - as an athlete, when you see stuff like that you don't mind being a little bit hampered. I think this year is just going to be very different, and whoever deals with Covid mentally the best is going to win a medal, and I keep just telling myself that. Be chilled, you're doing the right things, you put in the training - it will be what it will be."
Holly Bradshaw is a Whole Earth Team GB Athlete Ambassador