Grimsby athlete Hollie Arnold will head into the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games trying to defend her F46 Javelin title, but wants to focus more on “having fun and enjoying the experience rather than get lost in the pressure”.
Hollie, who was born without her right forearm, was only 14-years-old when she competed in Beijing in 2008. Now aged 27, she is getting ready to compete in her fourth Paralympic Games with the rescheduled event taking place between August 24 and September 5.
She would love to repeat her heroics of her Gold-winning performance at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, with the F46 Javelin event beginning on September 3. However, she is not putting too much pressure on herself despite being among the favourites to win the title.
Hollie told The Lincolnite: “The expectation is always to go out there and defend that Paralympic champion status, in my head and in my heart that’s exactly what I want to do, but this Paralympic Games for me is going out there and showing people who you are and just being you and just having fun.
“I think that sometimes as athletes we get so lost in our pressure bubble and we forget to enjoy these (moments). This is what we do day in day out, we train for these major events and sometimes it does get lost on you with the pressure.
“Don’t get me wrong I’ve got plenty of pressure internally and externally, but you know what, I just want to go out there and enjoy myself, and if it comes together on the day then hopefully there will be some exciting things happening.
“I actually can’t believe that this is my fourth Paralympic Games, considering I was 14 back in Beijing and now I’m 27. I’m feeling quite old now, but I’m really excited to be here.”
Hollie is currently at a training camp in Yokohama and is due to leave for the Paralympic village in Tokyo on August 29. “It’s really exciting and I’ve got a couple more days to get my head down and then showtime,” she said.
Although Hollie now lives in Loughborough and is two hours away from home in Grimsby, she still loves to go back to her home town as much as possible.
Hollie, who took part in the TV show ‘I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!’ last year, said: “I’m now driving so I can actually go home on the weekends and I try to change things for my coach. He knows that I need a life outside of sport and obviously my family and friends are very important to me.
“I try to go back as much as possible, but I haven’t been back for a couple of months leading up to the Paralympics. I FaceTime my family and friends all the time.
“I love Grimsby, it’s my home town, it’s my roots, it’s where I’m from and I think actually when I go back home we will hopefully be going to our favourite place Steels for fish and chips. You can’t beat Grimsby fish and chips.”
ParalympicsGB has its highest ever ratio of female athletes for Tokyo 2020, something Hollie is very proud of.
She said: “I think the fact that we’re not even here to tick boxes and we’re here because we’re dominating sport is fantastic. It’s really exciting to see a lot more females on my team and I’m really proud to be a strong female lead. I hope we can all be role models for the younger generation.”
She also gave her words of wisdom to younger female athletes, adding: “Just enjoy your experience and make yourself proud. Everyone else is always going to be proud of you no matter what happens, please don’t put the extra pressure on you.
“I’ve done it in the last three Paralympics already and it is hard, and that’s why I’ve said to myself this time, even at 27-years-old with the experience I’ve had, ‘go out there and enjoy yourself’ because this is an incredible opportunity for everybody.
“This is what we dream of, this is what we love doing 24/7, day in day out, so just enjoy yourself and make yourself proud.”
Sophie is not the only athlete from Greater Lincolnshire in the ParalympicsGB squad as Lincoln-born Sophie Wells and Scunthorpe’s Victoria Rumary will compete in the Equestrian (Dressage) and Archery respectively.
Gainsborough’s Jack Hodgson will represent ParalympicsGB in Judo. The former World Junior Champion finished seventh on his Paralympic debut in Rio in 2016 and will be looking to finish even higher in the +100kg category.