Athletics: Holly Bleasdale’s gold vault

Eilidh Child and Kseniya Ustalova of Russia compete in the Women's 400m Semi Final. Picture: Getty
Eilidh Child and Kseniya Ustalova of Russia compete in the Women's 400m Semi Final. Picture: Getty
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It TOOK an audacious gamble and a leap of faith to give Holly Bleasdale the first major title of her career last night in Gothenburg as the 21-year-old claimed pole vault gold at the European Indoor Championships. More significantly, it banished some of her disappointments of last summer, which saw the prodigy came up short of the podium in London when an Olympic trinket seemed hers for the taking.

All winter, the British record holder has been slowly re-shaping her approach, criss-crossing the Atlantic with her coach Dan Pfaff in a quest for self-improvement. Nothing had prepared her for the gambit presented when she ended in a tie for first with Poland’s Anna Rogowska. “We could either take the gold together or carry on jumping,” Bleasdale revealed. “Whoever cleared the bar first would win the medal. I wanted to keep jumping,”

Both failed at 4.72 metres but the bar came down five centimetres. And after the Pole came up short, the Briton held her nerve. “The jump-off was really weird. I’ve never done one before,” she said. “But I was so happy when I got it.”

Eilidh Child will get two opportunities to medal in Gothenburg after the Scot booked her spot in the 400 metres final with another sublime run. However the 26-year-old’s reserves of energy will be tested to the full when she returns to action, merely hours later, to help Great Britain’s bid for relay gold.

The hurdler was forced to swerve out of trouble in order to preserve her individual ambitions when Russian favourite Kseniya Ustalova was tripped up ahead but was promoted into first place after Romania’s Angela Morosanu was disqualified. “I was trying to fight back the whole way,” Child admitted. “But I felt strong after doing it.”

Child now faces a showdown with long-time rival Perri Shakes-Drayton who smashed her personal best with a blistering run of 51.03 seconds to win the second semi, the fastest time by a European for four years.

Regardless of their private duel, the duo will unite in the relay as a squad, which also includes Olympic silver medallist Christine Ohuruogu, bids to leave Sweden on a high. Two years ago, Britain took silver with Lee McConnell in their ranks. The Glaswegian’s haul of major medals in the 4x400m has out-weighed her collection of solo souvenirs and that is serving as motivation for Child to emulate her accomplishments.

“The Olympic one’s not technically official yet but Lee’s got a medal from every major championships. Some are in the relay but you can’t take that away from her,” she said. “Ideally I’d like to get a medal in the hurdles but if it comes in the relay, I’ll be over the moon with that. Of course, I’d like both.”

James Dasaolu was edged into silver in the 60 metres in a photo finish with France’s Jimmy Vicault where both men recorded times of 6.48 seconds. However, Britain will still find it hard to achieve their target of nine medals as two of their better hopes suffered disappointment. Shara Proctor was pushed into fourth in the last round of the long jump while Olympic bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz finished a lowly sixth in the high jump after failing three times at 2.27m, leaving Czech rival Jaroslav Baba to take gold.

Scottish teenager Laura Muir had already exceeded her target by making the 1500 metres final, and in what proved to be a procession behind Sweden’s Abeba Aregawi, the Glasgow University student ended up eighth but still satisfied with her debut at this level.

“It was really tough,” she said. “I wasn’t sure what to make of it at the front with everyone bunching up. But I ran as fast as I could. It was my first major final and a high quality field. I did what I wanted to achieve in the semi.”

Chris Tomlinson jumped a season’s best of 7.98m in the long jump to book his place in the final. While Asha Philip, making up for lost time after injury, won through to this afternoon’s 60 metres semi-finals.