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Athletics: Holly's golden numbers

Fear is not a word which figures large in the lexicon of Holly Bleasdale.

Holly Bleasdale wins in Sheffield   Photograph: Getty
Holly Bleasdale wins in Sheffield Photograph: Getty

It is a given, of course, that pole vaulters have to be cool under pressure, but YouTube is littered with enough botched attempts and equipment malfunctions to make Harry Hill burp with glee. The 21-year-old from Preston is of a different breed however. And although she came a disappointing sixth at last summer's Olympics, there is a sense her era is soon to begin.

She will go to next month's European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg as an undoubted favourite to land her first major international title, having completed the formalities of securing her place in the Great Britain team yesterday at the UK Championships in Sheffield.

Three times, Bleasdale charged towards a bar raised to 4.90 metres, a mark only surpassed in history by the imperious Russian Yelena Isinbayeva. Thrice she fell short but her winning mark of 4.77m was still enough to propel her top of the world rankings.

Having changed coaches over the winter and tweaked her technique, her horizons have been elevated to the point that only victory at the Europeans will be satisfactory. "Every time I compete I get stronger," she declared. "I can put all the things I'm doing in training into the competitions and I'm getting better and better at that as I compete."

Another athlete focused on self-improvement is Perth's Eilidh Child and the hurdles specialist is proving ever more adept on the flat. The 25-year-old set a Scottish indoor 400m record of 52.06 seconds, obliterating the existing mark set by Sinead Dudgeon in 2001.

Dominating her semi-final, she will not be overawed by Shana Cox in today's final, where she will be joined by Dunfermline's Gemma Nicol. "It's going to be a tough race again," Child said. "I think I can go a bit quicker and if I can break the record again, it would be really nice."

Two other Scots with European qualifying marks under their belts will chase a maiden UK title this afternoon, as well as the top-two finish required to earn an automatic invite to the Europeans.

Guy Learmonth was in commanding form with a controlled victory in his 800m semi-final and he will not hold back in the final. "I'm confident in my running," he said. "And I'll be the same in the final. I have the Europeans as my goal and I want to be on that plane to Sweden."

So too will Laura Muir, the 19-year-old from Kinross, who was the quickest in the 1500m heats. "I felt really good," she said. "But this is probably the most pressure I've been under. It would be my first UK title but I'll just have to sit in and see what happens. As long as I'm in the top two I'll be happy."

David Bishop claimed the 3000m title in 8:06.98 but has now just eight days to take six seconds off his lifetime best if he wants to get to Gothenburg. "I've won the trials so if I get the time I'll go," he said. "In the next week I've got to get ready for that 7:50."

There was a silver for Allan Scott in the 60m hurdles with the 2008 Olympian edged out by Gianni Frankis. Jayne Nisbet's career looks back on track after she claimed bronze in the high jump in her first outing since an ankle injury in last year's Olympic trials, while Asha Philip took victory in the 60m in 7.15 seconds, the third-fastest ever time by a British woman.

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