"It's mind over everything" Paralympic Powerlifter Britney Arendse

"It's mind over everything" Paralympic Powerlifter Britney Arendse "It's mind over everything" Paralympic Powerlifter Britney Arendse
Neasa Kennedy

Britney Arendse has achieved so much since beginning her career as a paralympic powerlifter at 16-years-old. She is now 22-years-old and is as determined as ever, with her eyes set on the 2024 Paralympics in Paris.

"We are preparing ourselves for nationals which will be our last competition this year and then hopefully in March we will be in Dubai for the Fazza, and we'll see after that but we are working as hard as we can towards Paris 2024."

Arendse, from Mullagh Co.Cavan, became involved in parasport following a life-altering crash when she was nine-years-old.

"In 2009 I was involved in a head-on collision and I was paralysed from the waist down. It left me in hospital for almost a year from Temple Street children's hospital to NRH in Dún Laoghaire"

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"For the 5 or 6 months I was there [in the NRH], they said to progress here you need to do some type of sport. Also to keep healthy and as a person using a wheelchair it's not great to be overweight, it's very unhealthy, so I played badminton and we did a lot of swimming in the NRH"

Arendse was an active child who was open to trying all sports.

"I used to be very active riding my bike to school, going out and climbing trees as a kid, playing soccer, whatever I could really do to pass time and keep myself occupied"

"I tried basically every sport in school that they allowed us to play"

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While playing a game of wheelchair basketball, the paralympian was scouted and approached to attend powerlifting tryouts.

"I never thought I'd be that into it as first, I thought ok, I'll go up and do the tryouts and see where it gets me. I was told I was built for it, I had the upper body strength for it and everything. To hear I could travel and meet more people with different disabilities, it lit a spark in me and I said ok let's stick with this."

Speaking about her love for powerlifting, she is honest and genuine. "It has it's moments. Some days it can be tough like 'oh what have I gotten myself into' but then I'm doing something that is keeping me active and putting my energy into and as a young person we can have a lot of anger" she laughs.

Early into her powerlifting career, Arendse won her first gold medal in 2018 in the 67kg category at the World Powerlifting Fazaa Championships. She also set a junior world record in the 73kg category Asia-Oceania Open Championships lifting 98.5kg. 

"I still don't think [of it] to this day, I still feel I have more targets to get and I know they are becoming records again for myself"

"I can't believe I set a world record. It's going to happen more and more often that we will be setting world records, getting golds and bringing home medals as well and it's unbelievable that it was achieved"

On what is her biggest highlight so far, she says emphatically "Definitely Tokyo 2020, even just being selected. I was in awe"

She passionately recalls the moment she got the news she was heading to Tokyo "I was actually on holiday at the time and I was on bed rest as well as I had an injury. I couldn't be anywhere, I had to lay down completely so when I go this email I started crying"

From there she rang her coaches and they came together to make a decision as to which category she would enter "and from there on we just celebrated!" she says with a smile.

Arendse set a PB at her first Paralympics, competing in the 73kg category and lifting 107kg. She finished 7th overall and although the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics was an incredible experience for Ardense, it was also challenging.

"The first week was very hard for me as I was on my own, my parents didn't come because of Covid"

"I got in the mindset that this is going to be for another week as well so i can't be upset or anything so I did have to get into focus mode"

"Some people wouldn't really have that mindset to be able to just switch off and concentrate. I do that a lot, I switch off easily and I am dead focused"

The powerlifter was also bestowed with the honour of carrying the flag at the opening ceremony alongside high jumper Jordan Lee, and something which she is extremely honoured to have experienced "I know most people probably wouldn't have seen it on my face but I was just looking around me the whole time like 'I can't believe I am here!' "

"It was just crazy, we were meant to bow and I didn't see the queue for the bow because I was literally stunned"

Reflecting on what makes her a successful powerlifter, the young paralympian said: "I'm very determined. At one stage, I won't say I was ready to quit, but I kinda switched to powerlifting Britney mode and said this was meant for you, you were meant for this sport, and I am quite determined to hit goals as well"

The powerlifter also spoke passionately about how important mental preparation and work is in sport, aside from the obvious physical aspect.

"We work on our mindsets as well, we prepare for good and bad situations"

"It's mind over everything. If you can't have a great mindset you know you won't be able to do much"

Arendse does not have to look far to find inspiration in her sport. She tells me proudly that her mom was also a powerlifter.

"When we moved into the house we are in now, I found some of mam's medals and I didn't know she was a powerlifter."

"I was like 'you used to do powerlifting!?" and she was like 'yeah!' " she said with a smile, adding  "and that was inspirational".

Arendse advised other girls who are living with a disability and may be apprehensive about getting involved in sport to "at least try something. There is always something for you even if you don't know it yet. You have to put yourself out there and try it"

Arendse spoke passionately also about the importance of staying in sport due to it's many benefits

"I have dropped out of many sports. I've had friends who have been like 'Oh I'm done with rugby, I'm done with soccer, I'm done with basketball' and all that, and I am like if it's not for you, then fair enough. But it's keeping you active, it's motivating you, keeping you healthy. It's good to be part of some kind of sport to keep your mind occupied as well."

We spoke to Britney Arendse as part of the announcement of Aer Lingus as the Official Airline of Paralympics Ireland. Aer Lingus will support Team Ireland as they prepare for and compete in the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.

 The two-year agreement sees Aer Lingus partner with Paralympics Ireland having supported athletes, coaches and officials throughout the postponed 2020 Tokyo Games. Aer Lingus will support Irish para-athletes to World Games in the lead up to qualification for the Paralympic Games and will also fly Team Ireland to the Paralympic Games, which take place in Paris from 28 August to 8 September 2024.

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