January 22 - British pole-vaulter Holly Bleasdale (pictured) has catapulted herself into the Olympic reckoning for London 2012 by recording an indoor clearance of 4.87 metres, which has only been beaten indoors by Russia's double Olympic champion and multiple world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva, and which puts her fourth on the all-time list for outdoor competition.
The 20-year-old from Chorley, Lancashire, who broke the British record last summer with a clearance of 4.70m just three years after taking up the event, is now in an exciting position in an event where the dominance of Isinbayeva has, after many years, been put in doubt following her temporary withdrawal from the sport in 2010 and her failure to earn a medal at last year's World Championships, where the gold went to Brazil's Fabiana Murer with an effort of 4.85.
Bleasdale's jump, at a low-key meeting in Lyon, was 16 centimetres higher than she had previously cleared and puts her top of this year's early world rankings.
What will give her extra confidence is the fact that her effort came off a shortened, 14-stride run-up, which could indicate further improvement this season.
Having cleared 4.80m, Bleasdale – who made a tearful exit in qualifying at the World Championships, citing exhaustion after she had won the European Under 23 Championships – asked for the bar to be raised to 4.87m with the aim of taking the second spot on the all-time indoor list.
"When I got 87, I was so happy I couldn't believe it," she said.
"I just lay still on the bed in astonishment.
"The crowd was absolutely electric and this was an amazing boost."
The Briton then made an attempt on Isinbayeva's world record of 5.00m.
"Everyone was on their feet shouting, and when I attempted 5.01 the atmosphere was just out of this world," she said.
"I've never experienced it like that before.
"I ran through twice and had one good attempt.
"I was lucky to have the chance to attempt a world record but next time I will be more mentally prepared.
"I can't wait to watch the videos and get back into a little block of training before the trials, where I will be off a full approach and hoping the crowd can spur me on some more."
Another Briton had a weekend to remember – high jumper Robbie Grabarz (pictured) joined Bleasdale at the top of the 2012 world rankings with a breakthrough clearance of 2.34m at the Wuppertal meeting in Germany.
It was 5cm higher than his previous best, set indoors in Birmingham a fortnight ago, and was also well above the Olympic A qualifying standard.
UK Athletics head coach Charles van Commenee said: "It's a promising start to the season.
"If Holly and Robbie manage to repeat this in the Olympic arena, we will all be partying afterwards.
"I recently witnessed outstanding practice in South Africa and Kenya at our warm-weather training camps and, based on that, I expect more athletes to make a strong mark in the months to come."
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