Dowson ready to reach new heights

You might think that deciding to take up a sport as technically challenging as the pole vault would involve at least some degree of planning. Not so for Sophie Dowson, ranked 19th in the UK as she heads into the British indoor championships in Glasgow this weekend.


“I don’t think I even knew what it was before I started, because they never showed it much on TV,” admitted London-born Dowson.

“I was doing the sprints and hurdles. But there was a coach at Harrow AC who was big on pole vault and he said I’d be good at it.”

This year marks Dowson’s sixth as a pole vault specialist and, now 20, she is taking full advantage of a sports scholarship and the excellent training facilities at Brunel University, where she is in her final year.

“I train pretty much every day,” she said. “I have sessions in vaulting, powerlifting, sprinting, general strength work, gymnastics and Pilates.”

Her degree subject helps, too. “I’ve always been fast and strong, but the psychology of pole vaulting was the one thing that held me back.

Only 30 per cent of pole vaulting is the jump; 70 per cent is mental preparation. I think studying psychology has given me a better understanding of how to use tools such as visualisation to help me deal with nerves, stress and distractions.”

Perhaps as a result, 2019 turned out to be something of a breakthrough year for Dowson, with a new PB of 3.95m. “The thing that clicked for me was my understanding of what I am doing in the air,” she explained. “It’s hard to change what I’m doing mid-jump because it’s a bit of a blur at the time, but now I know how to slow the process down in my head beforehand, so the jump itself is almost automatic.” 

Following a successful period of winter training, Dowson feels in good shape and is aiming even higher for 2020. “By the end of the outdoor season I want to be clearing 4.20m or 4.30m. That’s very achievable.”

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