Hollie Arnold saved her best till last to smash the world record in the F46 javelin to pick up Wales’ second para athletics gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.
Hot on the heels of Olivia Breen’s golden leap in the long jump at the Carrara Stadium, the 23-year-old World and Paralympic champion held her nerve to see of New Zealand’s Holly Robinson in an epic battle.
The 23-year-old Robinson threw down the gauntlet to the favourite from Wales in her opening round as she went 64 centimetres further than ever before with a world record throw of 43.32 metres. That added 30 centimetres to Arnold’s previous best world mark.
Things weren’t going smoothly for Arnold as she battled for the only medal that mattered to her. She notched throws of 37.71m, 41.74m, 41.94m, 40.06m, and 42.40m to leave herself needing to find something special in the sixth and final round.
That’s when she revealed what a true champion she is. Showing no signs of panic or nerves she smashed her personal best, Robinson world record mark and reached 44.43m to take the gold.
“I am over the moon with that – it felt absolutely amazing to be up there on the podium and hearing the Welsh national anthem. My whole series wasn’t amazing, but I could feel it was there and I just gave it my all on that last throw,” said Arnold.
“I needed a big one and I did it and got another World record and a Commonwealth Games gold. It’s a massive rivalry with Holly and we push each other on and it’s great for both of us.
“This for her was my London (when she won the world title in 2017). Her home crowd was here and she had a lot more support with me, but at the end of the day I just did what I do best – perform under pressure.
“I knew she’d thrown far in the first round, but I didn’t realise it was the world record as they didn’t announce it straight away. I knew it was far, but I didn’t concentrate on her because it wasn’t about her, it was about me and my performance.
“It was just a timing issue for me in those early rounds and I knew I could still do it. I just executed my coach’s plan and it ended up perfectly.
“All I saw after that final throw was 44 metres go up and I have never screamed so loudly. I am so glad to be the Commonwealth champion.”
Among the first to congratulate Arnold on her success was Wales’ greatest paralympic athlete, Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson. The 11 times paralympic gold medallist was full of praise for Arnold in the way she pulled out the big one when it mattered most.
Hollie: “This is a memory I’ll never forget.”
#TîmCymru #TeamWales pic.twitter.com/jvPwNnmDEj
— Team Wales (@TeamWales) April 9, 2018
“Hollie is such a concentrated athlete. It was huge for her to pull out that throw in the last round to win the gold,” said Grey-Thompson.
Arnold will be aiming for more golden glory later this year at the European Championships, but before then she is heading to Sydney for a much deserved break.
“We rock and roll with Team Wales and we have such a strong team. We are doing great and hopefully we can push on and win a few more medals,” said Arnold.
“It is the European Championships later this year, but I’m just going to take a few weeks to chill out with my boyfriend in Sydney before heading home. When I get back home I will get back into slow training.”
In the men’s T38 100 metres, Tonypandy’s Rhys Jones finished seventh in a time of 11.87sec. Jones, coached by ex-Wales and GB sprinter Christian Malcolm, had won bronze in Glasgow four years ago.
Australia’s Evan O’Hanlon won in 11.09 sec ahead of the South African duo of Dyan Buis (11.30) and Charl du Toit (11.35).