Dennison thriving off better domestic competition

UK pole vault No.1 is looking forward to being pushed by British rising stars in 2011

Kate Dennison (Getty Images)

British record-holder Kate Dennison is relishing the rising standard of women’s pole vaulting in the UK and says she can no longer afford to have a bad day at the office with the likes of Holly Bleasdale and Henrietta Paxton nipping at her heels.

Dennison, this week’s AW coverstar, has been the UK’s No.1 ranked pole vaulter since 2006, during which time she has set 11 UK records indoors and out. With her 4.60m PB, she currently sits comfortably at the top of the UK all-time list, 13cm ahead of former UK record-holder Janine Whitlock.

But Dennison is expecting that margin to narrow this year. Bleasdale last year won world junior bronze and has already broken Dennison’s UK under-23 best this year with a 4.40m vault. Meanwhile, long jumper-turned-vaulter Paxton continues to improve. After taking up the event in 2006 with a clearance of 2.75m, Paxton is already up to fourth on the UK all-time list with her 4.35m PB.

“It’s fantastic to have Holly competing so well,” Dennison told AW. “For the past few years I’ve not had much opposition in the UK, but I fully believe that she’ll be the one to push me on. She is very talented.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to get away with an average performance anymore, they will both definitely keep me on my toes”

“Last year Holly and Henrietta finished second and third behind me at the Trials with 4.35m and I won with 4.45m,” added Dennison. “But I don’t think I’ll be able to get away with having an average performance like that anymore, so they will both definitely keep me on my toes.”

At major championships over the past few years, Dennison has been the sole British entrant in the women’s pole vault, but she is now looking forward to the prospect of having company in Daegu.

“Holly already has the European Indoors qualifier in the bag (4.40m), which is also a ‘B’ qualifier for the Worlds,” said Dennison. “Britain could have two or even three women in the pole vault in Daegu, which would be fantastic.”

Dennison will be competing against Bleasdale, 19, at this weekend’s Aviva International in Glasgow, but the Sale Harrier will not be expecting to reach PB heights as she is competing off a shortened run-up and will have a limited indoor season.

“I’m still very much in the grind of training. I’ll be doing a few indoor competitions just to see how things are going, but I’ll be vaulting off short run ups,” explained the 26-year-old. “After those, I’ll shut down my indoor season and get stuck back into training to get ready for the outdoor season.

“Especially after 2010 was an extended outdoor season with the Commonwealths, it would be silly to do a packed indoor season,” added Dennison, who will compete at the UK Trials, followed by Bydgoszcz and Stockholm. “Never say never, but at the moment I’m not planning on competing at the European Indoors. If I can jump close to 4.60m off a short run-up, I’ll be very happy.”

Dennison, who recently switched coaches from Steve Rippon to Scott Simpson, has recently returned from an extended trip to South Africa – her country of birth – where she trained hard and caught up with family members.

Her main motivation throughout the winter came from her final competition in 2010, the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, where she had been the favourite to win gold, but came away with the bronze.

“It wasn’t a great end to the year, but after a couple of weeks off I was ready to get stuck back into training,” said Dennison. “It definitely gives you an extra bit of ambition to carry through the winter.”

» See next week’s Athletics Weekly for more on Dennison’s coaching switch and her goals for 2012.

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