Ollie Hill takes unexpected Paralympic bronze after just nine months of Lottery funding

It’s just nine months since Ollie Hill became a National Lottery funded ParalympicsGB athlete and had started taking para-snowboarding seriously.
It’s just nine months since Ollie Hill became a National Lottery funded ParalympicsGB athlete and had started taking para-snowboarding seriously.

Ollie Hill went to the Beijing Paralympic Games to enjoy the experience and get himself ready to dominate the next Games in four years' time. Today he stood on the podium in China with a bronze medal placed around his neck.

“Honestly, I just came here wanting to enjoy the experience. I always knew if I was having a good day, on the right day I could possibly take something away and just to achieve that in itself is crazy, and to be the first para snowboard medal for Great Britain as well is pretty sick. I'm just pleased. I can't really describe it,” he said.

It’s just nine months since he became a National Lottery funded ParalympicsGB athlete and had started taking para-snowboarding seriously.

The 32-year-old from Reading has skateboarded since the age of six and had frequently snowboarded on family holidays. He competed in motocross and had just started his own business manufacturing sheet metal when he had a car accident in December 2018.

“It was a pretty bad day. My leg physically came off in the accident, I lost the bottom of my foot. When I had my accident, I was supposed to go snowboarding three days later from when the accident happened, so the first thought that went through my head as I watched my leg come off was, I won't be able to go on this holiday.

"This (medal) has kind of been a bit of redemption as I’ve gone full circle. It’s been magic really”.

While Ollie was recovering, he started to look at amputee snowboard videos on Instagram and came across his now teammates, Owen Pick and James Barnes-Miller.

“I thought 'that looks fun', but you don't know how long these people have had their injuries for. You don't know how severe the injuries are but you see them riding in a way you’d like to ride yourself, whether it’s for fun or for competition,” he said.

Four months after his injury he had a prosthetic leg and in the weeks after he went out, with the friend he’d had the accident with, to Solden in Austria for a snowboarding trip.

“Early 2019, I was sat in a wheelchair pretty much for months and I hate sitting still. I'm very impatient like that. So, I was just raring to go,” he said.

After getting the hang of riding with his prosthetic, he and a friend made some videos of himself and sent them to the GB snowboarding team. He was invited to try out at some training camps and in August 2020 he did his first one with the Great Britain team. After success on the circuit, he was added to the GB Snowsport Snowboard programme in July last year, becoming a funded athlete.

“Before I got funding, I was working all the time and evenings and you know, it's difficult to try and juggle that and try and get yourself up to speed and keep fit and do all those things that you need to do to be able to come here.

"The National Lottery funding is something that pays your rent and pays for your food and it's a good basic start. I have taken a little bit off work, a sabbatical, the last few years and so it’s something that I can live on and it's something that I can keep doing and have 100% focus on, on improving riding, improving fitness and improving strength without all the extra stresses.

"There's so much technique that you need to learn and then an apply to your riding. There are different boards we use. Race boards are really stiff and solid. The amount of time we've had on snow has probably been near enough like 180 to 200 days in a year and we’ve had amazing coaches with us throughout all that time.

“It's unbelievable the amount of support that we have had and obviously couldn’t have done any of that without funding. Hopefully, what we've just done here (in Beijing) can help improve that further."

The Paralympic Games is a time to celebrate remarkable sporting achievement and challenge perceptions of the inspirational abilities of disabled people.

National Lottery players are one of the biggest supporters of ParalympicsGB winter athletes and raise more than £30 million each week for good causes, including grassroots and elite sport. If you want to learn more about how you can take part in disability sport, visit www.parasport.org.uk