Paralympic javelin gold medallist Hollie Arnold on her ultimate role model, controlling competition nerves and how athletics compares to I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!

Glimpse into the lives of world-class athletes as they answer questions from YOU each week on ‘Ask the Athlete’.

This week AW is joined by reigning F46 javelin Paralympic champion, Hollie Arnold.

Arnold is also a four-time world para-athletics champion and won European and Commonwealth titles in 2018. She chats to AW about how she battled to become No.1 in her event plus, of course, her experience on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!

Have a read of some of her answers below and then enjoy the full episode.

Who was your role model growing up when you were competing? 

The person who was major role model was Jessica Ennis-Hill. You know, she’s a fantastic person, she’s so strong, she didn’t get to go to Beijing because of her injuries and she just blew my mind when she came back. She’s an inspiration for everybody out there and especially for women. So yeah, definitely Jess. 

Were there ever times when people told you that your disability would hold you back from achieving your dream and did this just motivate you even more? 

So I remember a time at school and it was a career advisor who came around. He sat me down, asked me questions and he said, “What do you want to be when you get older?” I said, “I want to be a Paralympic athlete” and he kind of smirked a little bit and told me that it wasn’t a real job and I mentioned to him that it was as you can get paid to win medals and there’s funding involved. He wasn’t really supportive and didn’t understand that I wanted to be a Paralympic athlete.

I guess sitting here today is kind of proving him wrong as I am a Paralympic athlete and champion. It did motivate me that I wanted to prove him wrong. Of course, that wasn’t the reason I wanted to be a Paralympian but I wanted to prove him wrong. 

If you can’t reach your target you set yourself, how do you mentally overcome it? 

It’s always disappointing when you set yourself goals and you don’t achieve that. For me mentally, I’ve learnt, in the last few years of being an athlete, we have to set little goals. It doesn’t always have to be in athletics but it’s sometimes making sure you do the washing, if you’ve got the food the night before training prepared and answering emails because all of these little things have had an impact on me during my training. 

For me it was organisation and everything ran smoothly. We need little goals in our life because we can sometimes set the bar too high with expectation and we can’t live up to that. But it doesn’t mean that the dreams and high standards aren’t there. It’s just setting those little goals each time to get to the big goal and that’s how I mentally deal with it. 

How did going on I’m A Celeb mentally, emotionally and physically compare to athletics? 

I think it was very similar because there were always challenges for me. I went in there [I’m A Celeb] to show people around the world that just because I have a disability it doesn’t affect me and wouldn’t want it to. However, I could prepare for training but I couldn’t prepare for whatever challenge I was going to be doing. We didn’t have a preview of what you were to be doing, you just had to do it. 

I think I’m A Celeb was more mentally challenging at times because it was cold, we were living on 600 calories (a day) with no nutritional value and the tiredness was tough as you had no energy but you couldn’t sleep because it was so cold! I used my strengths and found out that I was a lot more resilient than I thought. It just invigorated me though and I just took those challenges on like I do in athletics. 

How do you overcome your nerves when it comes to competition day? 

So I’m a really nervous person! For me I try and plan things. So I try and listen to music a lot and I’ve got certain set songs for training and competition. Sometimes you can’t always plan things however as you can’t control the uncontrollable and I just do what makes me happy that eases the nerves. You know, you’re always nervous as there are exciting nerves and it’s good to have fire in your belly. So I know if I am nervous it means I want it, it means I’m passionate about it and I’ve sacrificed a lot to get wherever I am. Personally though, it’s music and just having really good vibes which energises me! 

Subscribe to Athletics Weekly on YouTube to ensure you never miss an episode.

» For more on the latest athletics news, athletics events coverage and athletics updates, check out the AW homepage and our social media channels on TwitterFacebook and Instagram