Gregor’s season’s ups and downs

MONTROSE’S Scottish pole vault champion and Scottish record holder, Gregor MacLean (pictured), has written a review of his topsy-turvy season so far.

The beginning of the season did not start well for me at all, says Gregor.

Just as everything was going great in training and preparing for a good start to the outdoor season, I go and fall up some stairs and smash my knee. The fall caused severe swelling and a lot of pain during walking and any movement. This of course had put a stop to my ‘good start’.

I was out of running and vaulting training for three weeks, which meant that my main focus was to get my knee back up to full strength and being able to run with as little pain as I could bear. I was doing a lot of bike sessions, which were used just to keep up my fitness which I had worked so hard to gain over the winter season. Also I was doing a lot of upper body weights and circuits to help keep me strong for when I was to get back vaulting properly.

After the four weeks of rest and endless bike and circuit sessions I was able to jog and start vaulting again. This meant that I could get prepared to start my outdoor season.

I started my outdoor season well, with two competitions abroad; in Regensburg on June 2nd and Leiden on the 9th with heights of 5.10m. But with my training going so well the heights I was jumping weren’t good enough for me or my coach. I entered a competition on the following Wednesday at Loughborough and jumped 5.25m which was the second highest height I had jumped, so felt like I was getting back in good form.

That weekend was the Under-23s Championships held in Bedford. I was aiming to jump at least 5.30m which seemed reasonable since I had three very close attempts on the Wednesday at 5.40m. But when we got to the stadium I realised that it was very unlikely as it was very windy and there was a high chances of rain. I ended up jumping off a short approach which for me is 12 steps instead of my regular run up of 18. This means that you are not coming in with as much speed, so you can’t get on the right poles you need to jump the higher heights. But for me this wasn’t a big deal as my aim at that competition was to win a medal, and I managed silver.

The following weekend was my main competition, the UK Championships and Aviva Olympic trials at Birmingham. I entered the competition with high hopes as I knew that I perform my best when I have big crowds and a lot of pressure on myself. The conditions were far from ideal; it was a very strong gusty headwind, which for pole-vaulters is the worst possible wind as it can push you back towards the track when you swing upside down. The warm-up for all the athletes was very tricky and one athlete broke his fingers when the wind caught him at take-off and he fell headfirst into the metal plant box.

I opened the competition at 5.05m and cleared it first time, which for the conditions was a great start for me. A lot of people crashed out at their opening height due to the gusting winds. The bar moved up to 5.20, My first two attempts were very poor with bad winds and my run was all wrong. This meant that I only had one attempt left to clear. I had to wait for the wind as it was directly in my face.

Eventually the wind stopped and as I was getting ready to start my run I had two track staff run across my shoulder and head down the runway. This was obviously massive distractions which cause me to fail my last attempt. I protested to the officials and referee about what I had to deal with and they let me have a fourth attempt.

I had to make this jump count but luckily the wind had died down and I cleared the bar. Buzzing from the clearance I went on to jump the next bar 5.35m first time.

That was an outdoor personal best and a new outdoor Scottish record. Also, this height was enough to get me the silver medal.

Getting the Medal at the Olympic trials was the biggest podium position of my career so far, which was a great feeling and also has spurred me on to clear higher bars before the season ends in five competitions’ time.