Almost cutting off my finger is all part of the chaos – pole vault champion Molly Caudery

Los Angeles 2028 seemed like Molly Caudery’s best chance at an Olympic medal until her stellar indoor season – AP Photo/Bernat Armangue

“They say fight fire with fire… I’m meeting chaos with chaos,” says Molly Caudery, laughing about those crucial, supposedly carefully planned days leading up to crowning Britain’s first world pole vault champion earlier this month.

“On Tuesday morning I’m driving to the track. I have an interview with the BBC and I tied my poles to the car when the garage door fell off,” she says. “Then the roof rack with the poles on it comes off my car. So the poles hang over the front of my car.

‘I’ll call Scott [Simpson, her coach] and me: ‘My roof rack is off, my poles are off’. He says, ‘Okay, I’ll come get you.’

“Later that day I spilled boiling tea all over my lap. My partner has exactly the same thing. We lose everything. You can always bounce back from minor accidents. It’s just little things that happen in my daily life… like cutting off my finger.”

That refers to how her finger was only saved following emergency specialist surgery that required a Christmas Eve trip from Cornwall to Derby in 2021, after she somehow wedged her hand between a weight rack and the bar. And then there are the childhood stories about a broken foot and fingers, and the fact that she broke her nose twice while jumping on a trampoline. Mr. Bump apparently doesn’t have anything with him.

And yet listening to Caudery is a wonderful antidote to the precise marginal gains we are so often sold in elite sports, even if the finger incident spurred Simpson into action. “He sat me down in the nicest way possible and just said, ‘You have to try to get better,’” Caudery says. ‘He meant something like: ‘Try to restrain yourself a little bit. Don’t trip over your own feet.’

“Scott has had to learn to deal with the natural chaos, because it is just a part of me. I think he found it quite difficult to deal with it, but now he just accepts it and we move on. I kind of wrap myself in cotton wool and joke about it, but it’s a very serious matter. As I get older, I might grow out of it.”

That ‘cotton wool’ will now have to be applied in Auckland, with Caudery taking the unusual step of moving to New Zealand in the next six weeks, where Simpson, who was also once based at Loughborough, has become national coach.

Simpson also trains Eliza McCartney, who finished second to Caudery at the World Indoor Championships, and his departure represents a significant blow to British athletics.

Molly Caudery hugs Eliza McCartneyMolly Caudery hugs Eliza McCartney

Caudery will train with her friend and rival Eliza McCartney in New Zealand – REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

“It was a very natural transition, but it does mean that I will go to the other side of the world in an Olympic year,” says Caudery. “I can’t stay away from Scott because he is such a great coach. New Zealand athletics has been so accepting of me participating. I talked to the head coach and she just said, ‘Why wouldn’t we want another athlete to come in and push our athletes?’ They welcome me with open arms.”

Jack Buckner, the CEO of UK Athletics, apparently still hopes to eventually lure Simpson back to a British system that has had little success in field events in recent years. “I don’t panic…sometimes you have to gently let people go through the thought process that they’re going through,” Buckner said. “He knows he can come and talk to me at any time – he knows I have his back.”

Caudery, now 24, had previously believed the 2028 Games in Los Angeles would be her best chance to end Britain’s four-decade wait for an Olympic female field event champion.

That prediction had to be quickly revised after a stellar winter that, in addition to her gold medal in Glasgow, also included a world-class clearance of 4.86 meters in Rouen. In addition to the Olympic Games in Paris, she will also go to the European Championships in Rome in June. “It feels a bit like a dream,” she says of a month in which she suddenly went from being known largely only in athletics circles to primetime in the BBC studio with her hero Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill. Caudery’s Instagram following now also stands at almost 250,000.

Caudery jumped 4.80 meters and took goldCaudery jumped 4.80 meters and took gold

Caudery cleared 4.80 meters and took gold – Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch

“Maybe there was only one percent of me that thought I could get a medal or the gold,” she says. “I keep talking to my family and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, I just won a gold medal at the World Championships.’ When I say it out loud, it just sounds crazy.

“The two days before the competition I could barely sleep because I was so nervous, tingling almost non-stop. Every match I start to believe in it a little more. I definitely felt what people call impostor syndrome after last year’s worlds.

“I’m actually not in the spotlight where my nerves are. They are more alone on the runway. On my first try I felt like I was made of jelly.

Having secured her first sponsorship deal from Adidas earlier this year, she remains completely untouched by success following a journey that began in the unlikely setting of the Carn Brea Leisure Center in Redruth, which has the only athletics facility in her home country of Cornwall.

She was initially coached by her father Stuart, an athlete who competed at club level in everything from cross country, steeplechase and sprint hurdles to high jump, long jump and pole vault. Another crucial foundation was laid at a no-nonsense gymnastics club between the ages of four and eleven. The two broken nose incidents occurred while attempting backflips on a trampoline. The first was by kneeing herself in the face and the second by landing on one of the surrounding poles which, in her own matter-of-fact words, “just went straight in”. Gymnastics memories still make her wince and smile. “At one point I trained 24 hours a week. As a 10-year-old, I missed school on a Tuesday to train for eight hours.

“When I look back on it, it’s just crazy. But I do think this laid my foundation for where I am today. As a 10-year-old, we did three sets of 30 pull-ups.

“I actually had a really nice coach – he was great… there’s definitely a different culture in gymnastics. I remember one time we cheated during one of our conditioning sessions, and he said he had CCTV and was watching us. We sprinted for four minutes instead of five minutes on a soggy mat and he came back and said, “You’ve all been doing this conditioning all session.”

“So four hours of leg conditioning. We were all crying and he said, ‘You can’t stop.’ I remember my grandma picking me up and I thought, ‘I don’t want to do it anymore.’ But never again have we cheated on a warm-up! It worked.

“A little bit of tough love, I guess… not that I condone it, but it was character building. Growing up I did a lot of skiing, surfing and cliff jumping. I like to compete. It’s so much fun. I never take anything too seriously. I’m just living my dream.”

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