My 5 role models… with Holly Bradshaw

My 5 role models and the ways they inspired me

This week Totally Runable’s Natalie Jackson spoke to British pole vault legend and British record holder Holly Bradshaw about the 5 people who inspired her to become a better person and pole vaulter.

1. My Mum and Dad

“They just never said no! I don’t mean to chocolate, but when I wanted to try football, gymnastics, athletics; they always said yes. I remember throwing a cricket ball with Dad in the garden, and Mum’s always been a great sounding board. She wasn’t sporty, and probably didn’t enjoy watching football from the sidelines, but every weekend she was there. When I started athletics, they’d drive me and sit in the car for 90 minutes. I’m so grateful for all they did, and the opportunities I had. I’m sure there were evenings when they wanted to watch TV, but it didn’t happen! If they hadn’t taken me to all those places, I wouldn’t be the athlete I am today.”

2. My PE Teacher, Louise Verinder

“I first met Louise at a netball trial at my local high school, when I was still at primary school. She was bubbly and inspiring, and I wanted to be like her. At primary school we didn’t have a female sporting role model, so I loved it. She inspired me to try new things, including athletics. I was first in line for everything, spending lunchtimes in the PE department and evenings at netball, gymnastics, tumbling, you name it. I even dreamed of being a PE Teacher! She took us to a competition at Robin Park in Wigan. I won the 100m and high jump and fell in love with athletics, and she suggested I join a club. I went to a taster day at Blackburn Harriers and the rest is history. She’s always cared about me and my journey and still messages me now.”

3. Jenny Meadows and Helen Clitheroe

“This might be cheating, but they’re a pair! It can be tricky transitioning to an adult athlete, but Jenny and Helen really helped me bridge that gap. They were both successful local athletes; I shared a room with Helen at the 2012 World Indoors in Istanbul and with Jenny in 2013 at the European Indoors, when I won. When things were tough at Daegu 2011, my first major champs abroad, they made me feel so included, introducing me to people like Goldie Sayers, which was amazing. Jenny even helped decorate my house when I broke my first British Record!

Role models you only ever see on TV can seem unreal, and their successes unattainable, so it was really special to see them as normal people. I always try to remember this when I’m around younger athletes. Yes, I go to the Olympics, but I then go home and watch Harry Potter in my giraffe onesie and fluffy slippers – I’m no different to them!”

4. Sport Psychology, and my sport psychologist Sarah Cecil

“I’m doing a Masters in Sporty Psychology in Loughborough, and I love it. I’ve worked with Sarah since 2013 and we still talk all the time. A few years ago, I fell out of love with the sport; I felt bitter about injuries, questioned what I could achieve, and felt jealous of other people’s success. I hated the pressure I was putting on myself. Sarah helped me to change my mindset, using things like mindfulness. Pole vault is my passion, and I’d still be doing it if I was only jumping 4m. Now I’m genuinely happy if others do well. If I have a bad day, I take the positives, I learn from the negatives, and I move on. The funny thing was that my performances improved!

I try to help others, so they don’t have to go through the same thing. Smart athletes learn from their mistakes, really smart athletes learn from other peoples’ mistakes.”

5. Other elite pole vaulters, even competitors!

“Lots of athletes wouldn’t say this, but I love learning from other pole vaulters. When I was first competing it felt quite isolating, and I definitely felt that protective mechanism which stops you making friends. The last few years I’ve made so many friends, and learned so much from them. If I’m out in an arena for 4 hours, I’d much rather be there with friends than with enemies. I Whatsapp one of my greatest rivals Katie Nageotte a lot, and I learned something new from a call the other day with my friend Ekaterini Stefanidi, the Rio Olympic champion. Scott, my coach, shows me videos of other athletes; you can always learn something. I also love to learn from men’s pole vault; Mondo Duplantis and Renaud Lavillenie.

It’s easy to have an ego in sport, but liking and learning from each other is a much better way to live and compete.”