“Going in to that stadium will definitely bring back memories but it will also make me feel like ‘This is my time to shine again. Don’t let anybody else get in your way, this is what you’ve been training for.’
Confidence is key for British javelin thrower Hollie Arnold. The 23-year-old, who competes in the F46 class, finished out of the medals at the London 2012 Games five years ago.
It was a result that left her devastated, but now with two world titles and a Paralympic gold from Rio 2016 under her belt – not to mention the world record – Arnold is determined to return to London and take home yet another gold medal.
“I didn’t get what I wanted in London and I just remember being really upset,” explained the Grimsby-born Para athlete.
“As soon as my last throw happened I knew I wasn’t in the medal position and it was that moment where I felt I was letting down my family and everyone in the team. I remember the cameras in my face; I was only 18 then and still really young.
“I didn’t take it so well but now I know that’s the way of life and you have to deal with that, which I’ve done along the way since 2012. I’ve just got to turn it around now and make it my championships. That’s why I put so much pressure on myself because I need to go out and prove something in front of my home crowd and just for myself as well.
“Going in to that stadium will definitely bring back memories but it will also make me feel like ‘This is my time to shine again. Don’t let anybody else get in your way, this is what you’ve been training for.’”
Winning Paralympic gold last year went some way to boosting Arnold’s belief in her own abilities, but even now the reality of her achievements has not fully sunk in.
“It’s just so surreal and I think some days I really need to remind myself of who I actually am and what I’ve achieved,” she admitted.
“Rio is still really raw, it’s still really emotional for me. To have Mum and Dad, my brother and my boyfriend and his mum there and see me perform on the best stage; to win that Paralympic title and break the word record – it was unbelievable. I can’t ever forget that memory and that’s something I will take in to London.
“I really under-estimate myself and I shouldn’t do that so much. I still think there is more and I think that’s probably why I’m harsh on myself. At the end of the day I’m not even at my peak – it’s not my peak time, or my peak age, and that’s obviously really exciting looking ahead.”
One reason Arnold expects so much of herself is that – despite her young age – she has been competing at the highest level since she was just 14-years-old. In 2008 Arnold took to the field at the Beijing Paralympic Games, finishing eleventh, despite having suffered a shoulder injury prior to competition.
The Wales-based thrower may need reminding about her own abilities, but her teammates do not; they voted her British team captain for London 2017 alongside discus F44 thrower Dan Greaves.
“The captaincy means a lot – I have been around for a long time and been to a lot of major championships, but it is just amazing for the team to vote you,” acknowledged Arnold.
“I think we could be a really great team to help support the younger athletes as well and give them advice; if they’re nervous, it’s okay to be nervous, it’s okay to be scared because I am as well. It will also give me a confidence boost.”
Determined to secure a hat trick of world titles, Arnold is once again ready to face her key rivals, including New Zealand’s Paralympic silver medallist Holly Robinson.
“She’s grown through the years and obviously so have I, but there is major rivalry there,” said Arnold. “But it’s good because I am quite a public and friendly person, but as soon as I get in to the competition there are no friends – I’m like that gladiator when I have to just focus on myself.
“I always try and step it up when it really matters and I will give my 100 percent best and I hope it’s good enough on the day. I haven’t taken my foot off the pedal at all and I’ve worked really hard this year.
“When I go out there and compete I don’t want anybody stepping on my territory and I will defend as much as I can do. It means everything. I’ve just got one thing, to go out there and perform. I will do everything I can on the day.”