Athletics: Pole vaulter Dennison aiming to hit the heights
KATE Dennison is looking to add another 10 centimetres on the bar to stand a chance of making the Olympic podium.
The 27-year-old, from Alsager, is approaching the summer season in the form of her life and, for a change, needs just to stay in the UK elite.
The former Staffordshire University student was the undisputed best in the country for five years before Holly Bleasdale, aged 20, emerged on the scene last season.
Now she is fighting it out with Bleasdale, her rival's training partner Katie Byers and her own training buddy Sally Peake for three spots at the London Games.
Only Peake out of the four has not yet achieved the 4.50m Olympic A standard but, with a recently recorded personal best of 4.42m, she will be in the reckoning at the trials in June.
Dennison's best mark stands at 4.61m recorded last July, while she cleared 4.52m off a short run-up at Nevers, France, during in the indoor season in February.
Now she is aiming to go even higher as she bids to secure her place in Team GB, then challenge for a medal.
"The first aim of the year is to make the Olympic team, and if I can do that the focus changes to getting to the final. Once you're there everyone has a medal chance," said Dennison, who featured in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
"At the moment a jump of about 4.70m would probably be enough for a medal and given my own PB I reckon that is within reach. I believe I can jump higher than 4.60m.
"For a while I was going into national competitions and the pressure was on me to get a personal best because winning was supposed to be a formality.
"The competition has now made it very interesting and with four of us it is probably the most hard-fought battle for places in any discipline. That's certainly pushing me on."
Bleasdale, from Blackburn, now wears Dennison's long-held crown as UK number one.
The 4.87m she cleared in February was the second highest indoor jump by a woman ever.
Dennison admits she can see more potential in her international team-mate than she could ever see in herself. She said: "Holly was always going to be a very talented pole vaulter, but the way she has come through in the last year has surprised everyone.
"She's got a little bit stronger and bigger and I'm glad I'm still around to witness first hand just how far and how quickly she is progressing.
"She's still so young and I've got no doubt she can go on to set a new world record. I know my own limits and that has never been on my agenda, but for Holly it's a real possibility."
Dennison was at Newcastle College last week meeting Foundation Studies students who will be competing in the Special Olympics later this year.
The college has been raising awareness of the challenges faced by Paralympic athletes, holding their own games such as wheelchair basketball and blindfolded football.
Dennison said: "Having a home Games means everyone is getting excited.
"It's great to see so many people taking part in sport and the most important thing is to just enjoy yourself, whether you are playing about for fun or competing in the Olympics."