On day four of the Olympic track and field programme, England’s Holly Bradshaw mastered extremely testing conditions to safely book her spot in the final of the pole vault.
In a pole vault competition interrupted for safety reasons by heavy rain, one of Britain’s best hopes for a medal this week was among 15 athletes taken through after their successful attempts at 4.55m. Bradshaw (Blackburn; Scott Simpson) was one of seven athletes with a perfect record, in fact needing just one jump at that height to make her way into her third Olympic final. The athlete who finished sixth in London 2012 and fifth in Rio 2016 put the conditions into perspective when she said:
“It’s the dreamy way to qualify – just do one jump and save energy, I’ve never experienced anything like that in my life, it was the worst conditions I have ever had.
“But it was just a matter of staying focused and keeping your body ready and your mind and I think I did a pretty good job, what with the years of experience I brought to it. It helped massively....“There were lots of run throughs, lots of people close to hurting themselves… It was a bloodbath and it was just about whoever could keep your head in the game and keep your body in the right place.”
Elsewhere among the English athletes, British hammer record-holder Nick Miller (Border; Tore Gustafsson) qualified sixth best overall for the final. Seeking a mark of 77.50m to ensure automatic qualification, he had only one valid throw but his 76.93m left him third best in his pool and able to go one better than in Rio. Miller, who has thrown 78.07m this year, said:
“I really prefer to compete in the evening, so I found this morning hard, but I did what I needed to do. Third in qualifying isn’t a bad place to finish but I know I have more to give.”
His team-mate Taylor Campbell (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow; John Pearson) could not replicate his PB form from this season and placed 28th overall with 71.34m as his campaign came to an end. “I did good to get here but I just wish I could have competed and done the selection a bit of justice,” he said. “I’ve got to go back to the drawing board and prep for the next three years. I’ve still got to qualify for the next champs, so I’ve got to focus now and improve that and do better in Paris (2024).”
Both English 1500m runners set PBs in their heats, but the result was success for Katie Snowden and disappointment for Revee Walcott-Nolan. Snowden (Herne Hill; Daniel Stepney) continued her excellent season by taking the final automatic selection place in sixth with 4:02.77. Snowden, who began the year with a best outside 4:05 said,
“I couldn’t believe it – if someone had said I would run a PB in the heat I wouldn’t believe it,”
“I know I am in really good shape, but with the start time and first round is always a bit nerve-racking. I didn’t think I could be that quick so early so I am quite chuffed with that.”
Walcott-Nolan was seventh in her earlier heat with 4:06.23, her best ever run but ultimately just one hundredth too slow to take her through as a fastest non-automatic qualifier. After a nervous wait to see the final heat times, the Luton AC athlete said: “I felt good today, I’ve been feeling good in the run-up. I think my main focus coming into this was don’t be scared of the people I’m competing against. I deserve to be here, I know I can run a lot faster than 4:06, and I just had to put myself in contention and not be scared, and I’m happy I’ve done that, but obviously gutted I didn’t make the semi-final because I know it was definitely achievable.”
British champion Jessica Turner (Amber Valley & Erewash; Nick Dakin) had been the only Brit to make it to the semi-finals of the 400m hurdles but, struggling in the worst of the day’s torrential rain, could go no further. After clocking an uncharacteristic 60.36 for seventh, she said: “It was tough and I couldn’t see the first hurdle… I couldn’t see any of the hurdles, it was so wet and rainy. It was like running through water, it was so bad. It was tough conditions, and I didn’t get my stride pattern.”