Molly Caudery keeps her cool in Rome to boost hopes of first outdoor title

    Not since Tessa Sanderson hurled a javelin far and high into the Los Angeles sky in 1984 has a British woman won an Olympic gold medal in a field event. But with every leap that 24-year-old Molly Caudery takes, the expectation grows that a 40-year-old drought is about to be shattered.

    In the past few months Caudery has won the world indoor pole vault title and leapt higher – 4.86m – than anyone else. Now, at these European Athletics Championships in Rome, she is hunting her first outdoor title. And the signs continue to be eerily good.

    It was so hot in the Stadio Olimpico by Saturday lunchtime that Caudery had ice packs and ice towels around her neck while she waited for the rest of the field to take their qualifying jumps. Finally, after more than an hour of waiting, and with the bar at 4.50m, Caudery stepped forward. And cleared it on her first take, without fuss or fury, and by a large margin.

    It was job done and on to Monday’s final, where she will again be an overwhelming favourite. “I had ice towels and ice packs just to put round my neck to keep nice and cool out there,” Caudery said afterwards. “I was really, really happy to save some energy and do one jump and have my best preparation for the final.”

    Gold here in Rome, she insists, would mean “everything,” although she is taking nothing for granted. “To get that first outdoor medal would mean so much to me,” she adds. “It would also give me so much confidence going into the Olympics.”

    But there was no joy for the other Briton in the field, the Tokyo 2020 bronze medallist Holly Bradshaw, as she suffered a back injury in the warm-up and failed to clear her opening height of 4.25m.

    “I have been struggling with my achilles a little but it felt good,” said Bradshaw. “But out on the warm-up track, I was literally doing an innocuous jump and I put my back out and I was like ‘oh great’. It is crap, but I’m trying not to live in the minute, I’m looking at the bigger picture.”

    That includes focusing on getting fit for a final hurrah in Paris, setting up her own pop-up coffee business, Ookin, and predicting that her good friend Caudery can win Olympic gold.

    Molly Caudery reviews her qualifying jump on a tablet at the Stadio Olimpico. Photograph: Nikola Krstic/Shutterstock

    “The way I see it is Molls now has taken the baton on from me,” said Bradshaw. “Molly is one of the sweetest, kindest people out there. And if I could pass the baton on to anyone, I’d want it to be her. I want to see her go on and be a world beater which I know she can be.”

    Caudery has had numerous injuries down the years – including a freak weightlifting accident in 2021 that required three surgeries to repair after 90% of a finger came off. However, Bradshaw believes that nearly two years of interrupted training has turned her friend into an “iron woman”.

    “Molly is quite naturally very fast and very strong and when you’re injured it sets you back,” says Bradshaw. “I think the biggest thing over the last couple of years is she’s been building momentum, strength and building that confidence – she’s just been almost like an iron woman. Nothing can faze her, she’s taken knocks but brushes them off.

    “Pole vault is such a confidence and momentum sport – once you get that, it’s like an armour. And she’s built this armour around her which means that she is so unfazed about little setbacks and I think that’s what’s given her the edge and given her the consistency.”

    But, Bradshaw believes, there is more to it than that. “She’ll trip up, she’ll do this, she’s not bothered, she’s got no ego, she’s not embarrassed about anything,” she says. “And that’s her biggest asset really. I’ve said to her, I’m always going to be here. I’m a shoulder to cry on, a brain to pick if that’s what she wants, and she knows where I am and we have a really, really nice relationship.

    “I think she needs to stay this carefree Moll, because that’s how she’s going to become world and Olympic champion.”

    For now, though, the Olympics can wait. For Caudery has only European glory on her mind.

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