HOLLY Bleasdale has backed her pal Jenny Meadows to come back bigger and better than ever before following her Olympic heartache.
Bleasdale placed a creditable sixth at the London Olympics, despite only taking up the pole vault in the aftermath of the 2008 Beijing Games.
That was in stark contrast to Meadows, who was controversially left out of the Team GB squad after fitness issues dogged her preparation.
The omission led to speculation that Meadows was finished as an elite athlete, after a career that had seen her medal at the World and European Championships, the World and European Indoor Championships, and become the third-fastest British woman ever over 800m.
But she has recovered from the disappointment – and subsequent surgery – and is currently in South Africa preparing to take her frustrations out on the track in 2013. And Bleasdale reckons the 31-year-old will come back stronger than ever this year.
“I know how much the Olympics meant to Jenny, but she is so motivated and driven as a person that I know she’ll use this to bounce back even stronger,” Bleasdale said.
“I used to live very close to her in Wigan, and I was so disappointed she ended up missing the Olympic team.
“She inspired me so much to become the athlete I am, she’s given me so much advice that has stood me in good stead over the years.
“I know she’s still got plenty to offer, and I’m sure she’ll be back competing at the highest level this year.”
Despite being born in Preston and competing for Blackburn, Bleasdale became an adopted Wiganer after moving to the town and setting-up base at Robin Park.
“The facilities there are first class - the best in the area, she added. “Everyone’s always so friendly when I go back. It’s a nice place to be.
“I did a lot of school visits to Wigan before the Olympics, and the support I received was absolutely fantastic.
“I’m hoping there will have been a few schoolkids who watched me at London 2012 and were maybe inspired to get involved.
“Who knows, if someone takes up pole-vaulting now they could be in my position in four years’ time - that would be fantastic.”
Bleasdale will be back in action at the British Athletics Grand Prix at Birmingham’s NIA on Saturday, February 16. Also competing in Birmingham will be double Olympic champion Mo Farah.