Bleasdale: I'm better than ever
Pole vaulter Holly Bleasdale is confident the injury problems which ruined her 2013 season are behind her.
After winning the European indoor title in dramatic fashion in March, the pole vaulter was forced to miss almost all of last summer, including the World Championships, with back and Achilles problems, which she believes were caused by an overloaded training regime.
Now the 22-year-old feels fitter than ever as she plans for medals on three fronts and is even plotting a course to breaking the five metres barrier.
Bleasdale starts her season proper at the Sainsbury's Glasgow International Match on Saturday more at home with her technique, admitting the raft of changes she was asked to implement last winter left her confused.
"This season is really important, mainly psychologically. I had a really good indoor season last year and then got injured and had to watch everyone else compete, which wasn't great," said Bleasdale, who has jumped once this winter, clearing 4.61m in Villeurbanne last month.
"Since I started pole vault I've never had to take time off through an injury so to watch the World champs at home was really frustrating.
"But it made me even more hungry to get back. That's why I think I've trained so well this winter.
"I'm fitter, stronger and quicker than I ever have been and vaulting better."
Following the London 2012 Olympics, Bleasdale linked up with American coach Dan Pfaff, dividing her time between Arizona and Cardiff, where she worked under Scott Simpson. But eight months later she had a change of heart, opting to base herself permanently in the Welsh capital under Simpson's guidance.
"Things started to crack and crumble a bit and I got an injury in my back and an injury in my Achilles," she said.
"It (the training in the United States) was really intense, it was quite a lot of high-volume and high-impact work and my body wasn't quite ready for that. It broke down after a period of time and now I'm in a better programme.
"Last year I was trying to change 10 things at once, which is impossible in pole vault.
"Now we're just focusing on a couple of things so I can get my head around them. I do feel in a good place right now, my head's not confused."
As a result Bleasdale is aiming for medals at the World Indoor Championships in March and the European Championships in August, and in between for gold at the Commonwealth Games.
She has so far been something of an indoor specialist. Her personal best of 4.87m, now two years old, was set indoors, with her outdoor best 4.71m.
But the defending World indoor bronze medallist wants to rectify that this season and start clearing 4.80m and 4.90m on a regular basis.
She said: "Taking the momentum I gain from indoors on to outdoors is really important for me, because outdoors is where I want to start winning the world and Olympic medals.
"I want to focus on jumping really consistently and I think the high heights will come after that."
Even, she reckons, the very high ones.
Only two women in history, Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva, whose world record stands at 5.06m, and American Jenn Suhr have cleared 5m.
Bleasdale, whose 4.87m vault ranks her third on the all-time list indoors, said: "I'm not afraid of the 5m barrier. I think quite a lot of girls think, because only two girls have done it, that it's out of reach, but I really don't want to make it that much of a barrier.
"I think that as soon as I start jumping 4.80m, 4.90m regularly then 5m is only 10 centimetres higher. If I stay injury free and keep improving then I don't see why I can't jump 5m within the next couple of years."