Athletics: GB’s Holly Bleasdale strikes pole vault gold at European Indoors
Pole vaulter Holly Bleasdale, 21, wins Great Britain's first gold medal at the European Indoor Championships
Holly Bleasdale claimed her first major senior title with a nerveless pole vault victory at the European Indoor Athletics Championships in Gothenburg.
Bleasdale – a world indoor bronze medallist 12 months ago – arrived in Sweden as the top ranked European this season and beat defending champion and former world champion Anna Rogowska in a dramatic jump-off.
It’s a win that underlines just how much the promising athlete, who finished sixth at last year’s Olympics, has improved her technique and confidence since switching coaches to work with Dan Pfaff.
And it bodes well for her next target – this summer’s IAAF World Championships in Moscow.
“We could either take the gold together or keep on jumping and I wanted to keep on jumping,” said Bleasdale, who started the week seeking medical advice after accidently spraying perfume in her eyes and ended it promising herself an entire celebratory cheesecake.
“I’m so happy to be the he gold medallist, I can’t tell you.”
The 21-year old cleared 4.67 metres at her first attempt in the jump-off to seize a much-needed victory for a British team that had seen other top medal hopes disappear.
Olympic bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz admitted he got caught up in his own hype after finishing a disappointing sixth in the men’s high jump final.
Grabarz failed three times at a regulation 2.27m as Russia’s Sergey Mudrov took gold ahead of team-mate Aleksey Dmitrik and Jaroslav Baba, of the Czech Republic.
“I came in with a lot of pressure on my shoulders and I just didn’t enjoy myself,” admitted Grabarz.
“I think my performance showed that. I’ve just got to come back and put a brave face on. It doesn’t matter what anyone’s expectations are, mine are always higher.
“I came to championships to win it so it’s really frustrating but what can I do about it now?”
And there was also disappointment for Shara Proctor, who was denied a women’s long jump bronze medal by just two centimetres.
But James Dasaolu was all smiles, despite missing out on 60m gold by the thickness of a vest.
Dasaolu was edged out of podium top spot in a photo finish by France’s Jimmy Vicaut, although both were clocked at 6.48 seconds – the fastest time in the world this year.
“I’m delighted with a medal and even more delighted with the time,” said Dasaolu, who crashed heavily to the ground after crossing the line.
“Maybe it’s a bit disappointing to be so close to gold but I knew it was going to be a tough race against that quality of field. I didn’t get the best start but it’s great to win my first senior medal and hopefully this is going to help my 100m now.”
Meanwhile, defending champion and British team captain Jenny Meadows and in-form Mukhtar Mohammed progressed to Sunday’s women’s and men’s 800m finals respectively.
“I can smell a medal now,” said Mohammed, who is ranked second in Europe this season over four laps.
“The gold was always the target and it’s achievable. If I get my tactics right and get in front at the right time, I’m certainly confident.”
Hurdles specialist Perri Shakes Drayton produced a European leading time of 51.03 secs to advance to the women’s 400m final in red-hot form, where she’ll be joined by British team-mate Eilidh Child.
And there are three British athletes in the men’s 400m final, form which bodes well for the 4x400m relay, as Nigel Levine, Michael Bingham and Richard Strachan all advanced.
However, teenager Laura Muir found the experience of her first major senior final too tough to handle as she finished eighth in the women’s 1500m.