This is the second piece this week by Stuart Weir on British pole vault record holder, Harry Coppell and his reflections on the amazing 2020 season….
Harry Coppell vaulted 5.85 in the British Championships in September 2020 to set a new British record. The record has been on his radar for some time but he was a little surprised to achieve it in 2020. “With the circumstances of this year”, he told me, “it was definitely more of a surprise. Had it been a normal outdoor season, I felt I was definitely in shape to do it. It was something that I was trying to achieve after the way the indoor season went but with lockdown and not being able to train and everything that added up to making 2020 the summer it was, it did come as a surprise to be able to hit that mark. I’d done a lot of work in the winter leading into the indoor season to get myself in the right shape and we were planning to continue that work to be ready for outdoors. At the British Championships in September everything just came together from the get go. Even in warm-up I was jumping well. I had good guidance from Scott [coach Scott Simpson] all through the competition to put me in the right place to jump it”.
Going back to the beginning of the year, Harry had jumped 5.70 and 5.80 indoors and was ready to build on that outdoors – until everything was canceled. How frustrating was that? “Very, particularly as I’d managed to get two Olympic qualifying heights in the indoors, which had been my main goal for the indoor season. I’ve technically never competed at a senior global championship. While I was in Doha, I got injured in warm up and didn’t compete. By now I would have hoped to have had the experience in 2020 of the World indoors, an Olympics and the European championships. So it is a strange feeling but then it is exciting that it’s all coming up again next year.
“Lockdown has been difficult for everyone. But being based in Loughborough, I had access to a lot of outdoor spaces. We used the astroturf a lot and some of the cricket pitches – so I did manage to get some training done. When the track opened up, Holly Bradshaw and I were two of the first people in and it was great to get that access. Not doing any vaulting for such a long time is very difficult in such technical event”.
His outdoor season was five competitions, starting in the last week of August. The start was later than he had hoped but he had a few problems coming out of lockdown because he had been training away from the track. He continues: “When I came back onto the track, with impact training and vaulting, my body reacted quite badly to it and we had a couple of niggles, trying to get back into it. Originally the plan had been to open the season in June but that wasn’t physically possible. The season then amounted to one or two good performances but then an up and down series of competitions. The main thing I’ll be looking for going into next season is consistency. I need to increase my baseline because it seemed that this year I either jumped 5.80 or 5.40 and not much in between.
“I went to Poland (Janusz Kusociński Memorial) and competed off a short run, finishing on 5.42. I had three jumps at, I think it was, 5.52 and two of them I cleared by a massive amount but then dropped my arms on the bar, which is partly why you need competition practice before a championship. I knew that my vaulting that day in Poland was worth a lot more than the result. Some days you definitely have to look beyond the height and result to what you’re capable of jumping”.
He felt that he did not do himself justice in some of his competitions in 2020. His GB record 5.85 would have won the Diamond League Doha and got second in Rome, but he couldn’t produce it on the day. While that was frustrating, it was also a learning experience: “It’s about searching for that consistency on the road. Because of everything that was going on this year, my coach, Scott, was unable to travel much this season. Being without a coach at events did have a big effect. But I really want to take what I’ve done and put it into competitions where I can be competitive against the best – instead of just being in the competition which I felt I was a couple of times this year”.
There is a lot more to come for Harry Coppell in 2021
Harry’s summer (Source Worldathletics.org)
25 AUG 2020
Janusz Kusociński Memorial, Stadion Śląski, Chorzów
04 SEP 2020
British Ch., Sportcity Regional Arena, Manchester
13 SEP 2020
ISTAF Berlin, Olympiastadion, Berlin
17 SEP 2020
Golden Gala Pietro Mennea, Stadio Olimpico, Roma
25 SEP 2020
Diamond League Meeting, Suhaim bin Hamad Stadium, Doha