With the benefit of hindsight, it is fortunate Holly Bradshaw and her husband Paul are, by her own admission, “pretty tight” with money – not ideal when it comes to buying rounds at the pub, but a relief if your sponsor unexpectedly drops you after eight years of support.
It came as something of a surprise when Nike told Bradshaw – by some margin Britain’s most successful pole vaulter – they were done with her at the start of January.
Through years of persistent injuries preventing her from fulfilling the talent that first emerged near the start of the decade, Bradshaw had ended 2018 ranked sixth in the world and hinting that the best was ahead of her.
That thought has only been boosted by two of the biggest jumps of her life in the only two competitions she has contested this winter, but by then Nike had already decided she was not worth the money. Intending to show she is on an upward curve at this weekend’s Glasgow European Indoor Championships, Bradshaw still does not know why they reached that conclusion.
“It is a little bit disappointing because last year was one of my best years ever,” she tells Telegraph Sport. “I feel like I did really well, so not to get anything off the back of it seemed a bit strange.
“I don’t really know what sponsors are looking for. You’d like to think that sponsors want to help you because of your performances and you’re doing well at the sport.
“But I don’t know whether it’s changing a little bit and it’s more on image, which I don’t have. I can’t do anything about that. Or is it about supporting youngsters who are up and coming?
“Once upon a time this would have killed me and dented my confidence but right now I’m loving what I’m doing, things are going well and I’m pretty relaxed about it.
“I hope that the better my season goes, people then might be interested in sponsoring me. But it doesn’t really spur me on.
“Me and Paul have been really savvy with money. We don’t do anything extravagant and love saving so we’re really fortunate that we don’t need to stress about money and we can be fine for the year.”
Chatting in her adopted home of Loughborough, it is evident in Bradshaw’s cheery outlook that the financial loss is no great burden – at least for now. Waving and chatting to the countless other British athletes who also base themselves in the Midlands town, Bradshaw, 27, has grown comfortable with her place among the elite of the sport. It just seems Nike concluded she had reached the point where she was never going to win a global medal.
She has come close before, but having finished sixth and fifth at the last two Olympics, and seventh and sixth at the last two World Championships, results alone suggest she looked destined to be a nearly woman of pole vault.
But that fails to take into consideration the injuries – the back surgery in 2014, knee surgery in 2015, and double Achilles surgeries in 2016 and 2017 – and the realisation that she achieved those results in spite of repeated setbacks.
“Over the past four or five years if you add up the time I’ve missed due to surgery it’s probably around 18 months,” she said.
“So for me, it’s like, if I hadn’t had that what could I have done? I know what I can achieve and I’ve just been stopped.
“But I feel that everything that’s happened to me has made me the athlete I am now. Sitting here, being in such a good place, I know the reason for all the turmoil I’ve had is to be in this position now in the best shape ever.”
Like many sportswomen, there is further consideration to the time-span of her career than merely her body’s frailties, with Bradshaw keen to start a family before long. When she relocated from Cardiff to Loughborough last year, she tentatively pinpointed the end of 2021 to take a potentially career-ending break from her athletics career, although the announcement that Birmingham will host the 2022 Commonwealth Games means she is likely to continue for another year. That could leave three shots at winning a global medal, starting with the Doha World Championships later this year.
“It’s hard for a woman. I wanted to be a mum way before I wanted to be a pole vaulter,” she says. “It’s what I’ve always wanted.
“It’s just trying to figure out when is best to do that. It depends what I’ve achieved. If I’ve won the Olympics it might be a different story. I want to prove to myself that I can win an outdoor global medal.”
It was to that end that she spent most of this winter training as a sprinter, looking to boost her flat speed in the search for extra centimetres come the outdoor season.
The last-minute decision to contest a couple of indoor events came off the back of just one day vaulting per week, but the unexpected success of consecutive victories in Birmingham – where she beat Olympic, world and European champion Katerina Stefanidi – now makes the prospect of an European indoor medal likely this weekend.
Proving Nike wrong is way down on her sources of motivation, but some silverware would be a nice way to prompt a rethink.
- This Morning’s Holly Willoughby loses battle to extend £3m London home amid complaints from her neighbours
- I’m 53 & have better sex than most people in their 20s – we make love 5 times a week & know how to keep the spark alive
- Marry Him! Mr. Right vs. Mr. Good Enough
- I’m loving The Bill Bailey effect that’s seen my Strictly appearance inspire oldies to start dancing
- Inside Hugh and Crystal Hefner's Unlikely Yet Ultimately Loving Marriage - E! Online
- The Best PS4 Exclusives for 2021 | Digital Trends
- The Best Shows on Peacock Right Now (July 2021) | Digital Trends
- Netflix's New Ted Bundy Movie Is Finally Out: Here's Everything They Changed About His Shocking Life - E! Online
- Marché du Film Unveils Pix-in-Post Showcase 'Sanfic Goes to Cannes' (EXCLUSIVE)
- The Best Nintendo Switch Exclusives | Digital Trends
- Naya Rivera's family reflects on her life, legacy on the 1-year anniversary of her death
- The coping strategies I learned through sport helped me deal with late motherhood, says ex-Olympian Denise Lewis, 49
- From Khloe Kardashian to Holly Willoughby – these celebs are going bananas for yellow
- I self-harmed at 13 after being called an ‘ugly s**g’ at school – I hated myself, says Love Island’s Belle Hassan
- 'I've lost my freedom ever since I fell in love'
- Inside Jessica Simpson & Eric Johnson's Unexpected Love Story - E! Online
- Inside Diane Kruger & Norman Reedus' Unexpected Love Story - E! Online
- Olympic surfing: Can the exclusive sport become accessible?
- 007’s not 'content' and he’s not a mere commodity: Amazon-MGM deal gave this Bond writer the chills
- We still love and need you, TV
Holly Bradshaw exclusive: Losing a sponsor deal before would have killed me but right now I'm loving life have 1171 words, post on www.telegraph.co.uk at February 28, 2019. This is cached page on Europe Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.