Olympian Holly Bleasdale swaps pole vault for bike saddle to raise money for St Catherine’s Hospice
She may be more used to launching herself to dizzy heights in the pole vault, but Olympian Holly Bleasdale will be taking to two wheels when she joins her fiancé on a marathon bike ride from Liverpool to Leyland raising money for St Catherine’s Hospice.
The 20-year-old athlete is taking on the challenge fresh from the London 2012 Olympics, where she landed sixth place in the world. Now she is set to take on a new challenge and cycle 30 miles from the finish line of the Liverpool marathon back home to Leyland.
The fundraiser was the idea of her partner Paul Bradshaw, who popped the question in Stratford’s Olympic Park just hours after Holly’s performance to complete an ‘incredible’ day. He will be counting on her to keep him going the extra mile since he is taking on the ride after also completing the gruelling 26.2 mile marathon.
The 24-year-old wanted to set himself a tough challenge to raise cash for St Catherine’s after his grandma Renee Bradshaw was cared for at the hospice’s in-patient during her battle with cancer.
Paul, who teaches in the sports department at Runshaw College in Leyland, said: “My grandma was in St Catherine’s for about three weeks before she died – I remember visiting her and what a lovely place it is.
“I was only young then, but my granddad and my dad both really rate the hospice and it’s always been passed on to me what great work they do there. I think sometimes people think it might be a bleak or depressing place but it’s so far from
the truth – if we can help break down those myths at the same time as raising some money to support their work that will be brilliant.”
Holly, 20, is also thrilled to be ‘giving something back’ after focusing all her efforts and energy on the Olympics over the past 12 months.
The Blackburn Harriers athlete, who grew up in Euxton, Chorley, said: “I’m really happy we’re able to do something now to help support the specialised care St Catherine’s provides.
“My granddad Dave Woodyet works in their bookshop in Chorley so he was really happy when he found out who I’m cycling for, and obviously I’ve heard about it through Paul and his family.”
Holly, who is the current British record holder in the pole vault, said she wasn’t nervous about coming out of her sporting comfort zone, but admitted: “I normally only ride a stationary bike in training! At least the route is flat!”
Paul, who has also represented Great Britain in the 800m at the European Under 23s Championships in 2009, said pacing himself in the run would be key to his success in the double challenge.
And he added: “Holly’s sports nutritionist from 2012 – who worked with the marathon runners at this year’s Olympics – is also going to help me which will be great.”
Holly, who trains at the English Institute of Sport in Manchester and is studying a distance learning degree in sports and exercise science at Manchester Metropolitan University, only took up the pole vault four years ago – just after the last Olympics in Beijing.
Since then, the former Parklands High School pupil has won numerous medals including gold at the European Under 23s Championships last year, and bronze in the World Indoor Championships in March. She said she was thrilled to have been part of London 2012.
“It made me feel so proud to be British and I enjoyed my time there so much,” she said.
Now she is looking forward to competing in the Great North City Games in Newcastle on Saturday, and hopes to squeeze in some practice bike rides over the coming weeks ahead of the cycle challenge on October 14.
“It should be a great event which will hopefully raise lots of money for such a special charity,” she added.
Norman Cutler, senior fundraiser at St Catherine’s, said everyone at the hospice was thrilled to have the support of Holly and Paul.
“We’re extremely grateful for the Olympic effort they are making for St Catherine’s,” he said.
“The money they raise will help us continue to be there for patients and their families when it matters most.”
To sponsor Holly and Paul visit: http://www.justgiving.com/Paul-Bradshaw1
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