Olympic pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw on body image issues after social media trolls

'I will probably suffer with body image issues for the rest of my life. I'm still suffering now,' says bronze medallist Holly Bradshaw

Pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw has told ITV News how she still suffers from body image issues after cruel trolls bodyshamed her on social media years ago.

The 29-year-old, who became Britain’s first Olympic medallist in pole vault, also revealed how her bronze medal in Tokyo had changed her mind about retiring from the sport to start a family.

Bradshaw finished behind the USA’s Katie Nageotte and the ROC’s Anzhelika Sidorova on Thursday to win her first Olympic medal.

She finished sixth at London 2012 and fifth five years ago in Rio having also come fourth at the World Championships in 2019.

Speaking about the effects of bullies on social media on her, she said: "I think I will probably suffer with body image issues for the rest of my life. I'm still suffering now.

"Obviously, I'm not depressed or anything like that but I do suffer with the consequences of those comments how ever many years ago."

Bradshaw says she tries to turn her experiences into something positive for others, by being a relatable role model for kids.

She continued: "I just want to be relatable. I want to be the girl next door that people look at and think, 'I can be like her, she's not so special,' and relate to what I'm doing."

Holly Bradshaw holding her bronze medal from the women's pole vault final. Credit: Martin Rickett/PA

She said: "I'm just very grateful that back in 2012, when social media wasn't that big, that's when I kind of had my abuse and it was all about image and really bodyshaming me and saying I wasn't attractive.

"And as a 19/20-year-old just in the sport, new to social media, it was a real shock that people could say things or had those thoughts.

"A couple years, ago, it was, 'I really don't like Holly Bradshaw,' and I'm like, 'You don't even know me.'

"And I think it's a really dangerous place for people to just put a comment out there and they don't realise the impact."

Bradshaw is the latest athlete to speak out about the pressures of elite sport and the scrutiny stars are under - Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka and Adam Peaty have all shared their experiences too.

The athlete also revealed how she and her husband had agreed she would retire from athletics this year to start a family. But the couple decided to delay their plans after Bradshaw's bronze medal win.

'There's just no way that I can retire when I'm on such a high,' Holly Bradshaw says

Bradshaw told ITV News: "We chatted and there's just no way that I can retire when I'm on such a high. I can't break my PB (personal best), and win an Olympic medal and retire.

"I do feel like I have so much more to offer. I think I can jump a little bit higher, I think I can win some more medals.

"More than anything, I'm just loving what I'm doing and I dont want to stop.

"So I'm definitely going next year and Paris is only two years away, so it kind of makes sense to keep going."

Although she acknowledged that it is possible to start a family and come back to the sport, like Jessica Ennis-Hill had done.

Holly Bradshaw in the Women's Pole Vault Final Credit: Martin Rickett/PA

"I wanted a family earlier than when I wanted to be a pole vaulter and I just always wanted to be a mum and I want to raise my kids and be there," she said.

"And I know how much dedication goes into me at the minute trying to win an Olympic medal and I don't think I could do it justice to have a baby and then come back.

"So for me, once I have a family that's me done from competing in athletics.

"It is a very very difficult decision, especially when I'm on such a high."

She added the fact that women face the difficult choice of compromising or stopping their sporting career to give birth to children is "almost not talked about" and said there should be more support for female athletes in that aspect.

Great Britain's Holly Bradshaw celebrates bronze Credit: Martin Rickett/PA

The bronze medallist said while the feeling of winning an Olympic medal has not quite sunk in, she is elated to have finally won one after a series of injuries and setbacks earlier in her career.

At one point, she said she gave in to the belief that she would never be able to break her personal best or win a medal.

She said: "But it's what I love to do, so I wasn't going to stop and I just kept persevering.

"And I had a good run of no injuries now for five years and my performance has been creeping up, the consistency's there.

"This is the best year of my career. I broke my PB, Olympic medal, I can't ask for much more."