The British pole vaulting champion discusses the advantages of staying mentally strong and setting targets.
Raise Your Game: Why the pole vault?
Kate Dennison: I come from a gymnastic background, so I suppose that's a little bit crazy as well, and when it came to athletics I wanted an event that was challenging in terms of how hard it was to train and a little bit on the crazy side too. That's where it all started for me.
RYG: Do you remember the first time you tried the event?
KD: Yes I do. Pole vault looks a bit scary when you watch it done professionally! When you first try it you're just trying to make the bed and you build up your confidence from there. It's not as scary as it looks on TV!
RYG: Who has inspired you during your career?
7 May 1984 (Durban, South Africa)
- Gold - Aviva World Indoor Trials and UK Championships, Sheffield (2010)
- Kate broke the British pole vault record six times in 2009.
- Sixth - IAAF World Championships, Berlin (2009)
- Fourth - SPAR European Team Championships, Leiria (2009)
- Sixth - European Athletics Indoor Championships, Torino (2009)
- Seventh - Olympic Games, Beijing (2008)
KD: Yelena Isinbayeva is the queen of the pole vault world but when I first started there was also Stacy Dragila and (Svetlana) Feofanova. There were a lot of World Records being broken by different people at that time. For the British, Jonathan Edwards and people like him were winning medals and breaking World Records. The British come from a very successful athletics background and we want to carry that on.
RYG: When you're on the field, what do you say to yourself before you start competing?
KD: It's interesting because when you go through the call room one of the last signs you see is "Have fun." It's a great sign because you remember that although you're nervous and you want to do well you do it because you want to have fun. You tell yourself to relax and enjoy it.
RYG: Do you look up and see anything of the crowds that are looking at you?
KD: It's tough as the crowd blurs into one. I can see my coach and that's about it but the atmosphere is always fantastic at the World Championships.
RYG: What advice do you have for young people who say 'I'll never be as good as her so why do I even start?'
KD: It's all about having small targets at first. I always wanted to be as good as Janine Whitlock and at that time she was a 4.40m vaulter. When you first get into it you're just trying to jump personal bests (PB). After that you have to look to the next stage which is the world stage.
RYG: There's a lot more to this than just winning the medals. What's it like being part of the GB team?
KD: It's a fantastic team. It's been a developmental team for a while so we've all come through the ranks together and we all know each other really well. The atmosphere's great and everyone wants everyone else to do well, so it's a good team to be part of.
Everyone focuses on themselves to start with then once you finish competing you're there to support everyone else. If your roommate is still competing then you make sure you help them in any way you can. Once you've finished competing you go down and support everyone else.
RYG: How important is working hard?
KD: Talent gets you so far and then hard work takes you the rest of the way.
RYG: How hard is it to get the mental preparation right?
KD: Everyone is different and everyone deals with it differently. Some people like to get really psyched up for an event like this and other people try to relax. I tell myself this is just another competition and let the atmosphere take me the rest of the way. The adrenaline will always be there so it's about staying mentally strong.
RYG: What advice would you give to youngsters looking to get into sport?
KD: Go out there and have some fun! Sport is fun and I do this because I enjoy it. You've always got to remember that. You do it for the success as well but when you first get into it it's all for the enjoyment.
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