17 August 2023

Holly Bradshaw makes giant leap to overcome anxiety before World Championships

17 August 2023

Holly Bradshaw has revealed she has beaten crippling anxiety to lay her pole vault ghosts to rest.

The 31-year-old is ready for the World Championships in Budapest after returning from a nightmare injury streak.

Bradshaw suffered a freak accident in Eugene last year when her pole broke in the final jump of her warm-up.

It left her with back, arm and hamstring injuries and she then snapped her hamstring at the Commonwealth Games a few weeks later in a rush to compete in Birmingham.

A comeback this year, shaking off an Achilles issue, has seen her make the plane for Budapest on her world ranking position but it has not been without its own fears.

She said: “I was crippled with anxiety leading into it and I just had to remind myself, this is what I love. Going through the warm-ups out in Lausanne (Diamond League in July) I was nervous. I was pretty much shaking.

“I felt sick. I hadn’t competed in over a year and actually jumped well in over two years in a competition environment.

“There’s also the anxiety of clearing the bar. Having my big fall in Oregon has created some anxiety around pole vaulting, especially in windy conditions. So there’s this something that sits in the bottom of your stomach or in your mind that says, ‘I don’t want to do this. This is scary.’

“The first couple of competitions was really trying to overcome that and overcome that fear but once that hard bar went up and I cleared the opening one I had the biggest smile on my face.

“I didn’t pick up a pole after I snapped my hammy until January. That’s five and a half months I couldn’t run down the runway.

“I would have loved to have just got back up and planted the pole, that would have done my psychology a world of good, but because I couldn’t it was tricky.

“I’m quite robust, I don’t know whether it’s like the northern streak in me. I’m renowned on the circuit for, ‘she’ll pop off the pole, fall and then she’ll just get straight back up and clear the bar’.

“I just don’t let those negative things seep into my brain. I’m just kind of crazy. I just go for it. The biggest challenge for me was trying not to let those terrifying, negative, thoughts come in.”

After finishing second at the British Championships to Molly Caudery last month, Bradshaw now feels it is important to talk about any issues so others can understand what athletes deal with.

“Athletes being more open with what they’re going through, with what they’re struggling with, it just educates people,” she said.

“How are you guys (the media) meant to know what’s going on if we don’t tell you? So we tell you what’s going on and then there’s more knowledge around that situation. In the past athletes get frustrated but actually it’s on them to be open as well.

“I remember when I was a young athlete, I wanted to keep my injuries secret. I didn’t want anyone to think I’m weak.

“Now it’s like, ‘this is what’s going on in my life and this is what I’m navigating’.

“I’m just doing the best that I can and I’m kind of on this journey to try and achieve something. I’m going to tell you all about it and not be embarrassed or shameful of it.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox