A GOLDEN success at the British Masters has provided the perfect springboard for Anja Fairbairn as she eyes stepping up to world level.
The City of Portsmouth athlete won the women’s 40 age group pole vault title with a clearance of 2.10m.
She’s now looking at the possibility of competing in the 2019 World Championships indoors in Poland, while the European Championships outdoors is also on her target list.
It’s been a whirlwind return to the sport after a long absence and the dedication shown in training has paid off.
She said: ‘I had to train quite hard to get fit for the season and pole vault can be very frustrating because you have to get so many aspects right.
‘For me I have to commit fully to it because I want to do my best. I am hoping there is more in it. I would like to go to the European Championships in Italy outdoors in 2019 and maybe the World Championships indoors in Poland in 2019 as well.
‘I grew up in Germany and did athletics from age eight to 19. At that point I left the sport, due to moving to the UK, studying for a degree, then working and starting a family.
‘In August 2017 I decided to return to the sport, aged 41, with my kids older and more time to train.
‘Training involved getting my general fitness back, then lots of strength training for core muscles and arms, and sprint training for speed.
‘We don’t have an indoor pole vault pit in Portsmouth, so some training has to be done in south London.
‘The biggest challenge for masters (athletes above 35 years) is staying injury free. For that reason, you never know who will turn up at events.’
Winning the British Masters was a good confidence boost. It was a fantastic event at Lee Valley with more than 600 athletes competing across all the events.
Some initial nerves could have derailed her charge but Fairbairn showed the ability to bounce back.
She added: ‘The atmosphere was good. I like competing, it gives you a buzz.
‘With 600 athletes it was quite busy and I had my family there watching which was really nice.
‘The competition didn’t start very well because I failed my first attempt at the opening height.
‘But I was able to clear it next time and then go on to have first-time clearances. I got 2.10m and was close to 2.20m.’
Fairbairn is pleased she joined up with City of Portsmouth and hopes more people will get involved in pole vault events at masters level.
She added: ‘Historically women only started to compete in pole vault during the 1990s so many older women never pole vaulted in their youth, and therefore struggle to pick this event up at a later age, or are put off.
‘It would be good to have more athletes to train with and also more women to compete against.
‘City of Portsmouth is a very friendly club and I am enjoying it.’
It will be a busy summer season ahead with league competitions, the South of England Championships in June, and then the British Masters in Birmingham in August.