Montell Douglas is returning to the School Games as an Athlete Mentor after her success in the role last year.

As a double Olympian, Montell has competed in both sprinting and bobsleigh. She made her first major championship appearance on the track back in 2007, at the European Athletics Indoor Championships.

In 2008, went on to break Kathy Cooke’s British record at the Loughborough European Athletics meet; running a fantastic 11.05 seconds, Montell lowered her own personal record and smashed a national record which had been unbeaten for over 25 years.

In the 2008 Olympics, Montell competed in the 100m and the 4x100m relay, but more recently, Montell has moved into winter sports, representing Team GB in Bobsleigh at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

We sat down with her to find out a little more about her athletic career and any top tips she has for our School Games competitors!

Montell, what would you class as your proudest achievement?

My proudest achievement would probably be making the 2018 Winter Olympic Games because that’s when I became a double Olympian.

I’ve now competed in both the Summer Games and Winter Games and I was the first British woman to do it.

It’s been a difficult journey these last twelve months, so I think that getting to the Winter Olympics is my proudest moment: I’d thought “this is going to be so tough”, but to have been there and been part of the team is amazing.

Where did you study?

I went to Brunel University and studied Sports Science, and then went on to do Psychology at Middlesex University.

I originally wanted to do Psychology but at the time it was oversubscribed, but I realised I really wanted to do Clinical Sports Psychology and focus on mental wellbeing, so that’s the pathway I took.

Have you got any study tips for our student athletes?

I definitely think balancing studying alongside being an athlete is tough and people can take it for granted, so in terms of tips for a student athlete: try not to be too hard on yourself.

If you’re competing in sports it takes up a lot of time and you can feel quite drained from using your mind and body, so try not to be too critical of yourself.

Try to have good people around you that understand your situation because that makes it easier. If you can go to someone and admit you’re struggling, whether that's your tutors at university or teachers at school, they’ll try and help you succeed.

Having that support, alongside telling yourself you can be the best you can be, it makes everything more doable for you and you will be able to achieve both as an athlete and as a student. 

What would you be doing if you weren’t an athlete?

It’s so tricky to say, because there’s so much stuff that I’d like to do! I think if I wasn’t an athlete, it would have been a very different path for me.

I would have liked to be a physiotherapist, because I was seeing a lot of them when I had my injuries… although my physiotherapist at the time told me not to be a physiotherapist! He said I couldn’t train to do that whilst trying to train for the Olympic Games, so I never did it.

 Nowadays, I could go into anything else it would probably be dance. My mum always considered me to be a bit of a drama queen!

I didn’t really do drama, but I’d do talent shows and take part in plays at school, and I’d do street dancing and stuff like that.

I love to dance, so I would probably pursue a type of dance as a passion maybe more so than my career.

Plus it keeps you healthy and fit… you don’t actually realise you’re working hard!

Is that the same as what you had wanted to be when you were little?

I originally wanted to be an air hostess when I was younger! I wanted to point down where the exits were and do the demonstration; I loved the idea of it.

Because I never really travelled anywhere, I wanted to see the world and I thought if I’m an air hostess I could see the world AND get paid for it.

That was my dream. But my sports managed me to be able to see the world still.

Who do you look up to?

I definitely look up to my older training partner. When I was 16 I joined a training group and my training partner now is a four-time Olympian, so she’s been at elite level and competing at international competitions for over sixteen years which is absolutely insane!

Her name is Donna Fraser and she is just incredible. She taught me how to be an athlete: she taught me that when you’re really tired you don’t lie on the floor, you keep walking it out.

She also taught me to that when things get in your way, you just deal with it and move on and try and be better. And she really set the tone for me from the age of 16 in the six year build up to my first Olympic Games (which she competed at too!)

It was a beautiful experience to see her. She managed to beat cancer and become an Olympian again which is incredible. For your body to have gone through so many strains and to pull back like that, it’s super inspiring for anyone even if you’re not a sports athlete.

So, Donna Fraser has definitely been my role model, my idol, and an amazing friend.

Can you share any training tips?

My number one training tip would actually be to train your mind. I think we spend a lot of time training our bodies just because our bodies will do it and withstand anything. It’s your mind you have to convince.

I think if you don’t pay any attention to how you’re acting before a competition, those feelings will stop you.

It’s not the hard work or the talent, its how you’ve processed information that’s happening to you, and how you interpret it.

Focus is crucial for an athlete and if you start young and learn good habits holistically it sets you up so much better.

You will have injuries, you won’t make some teams, people will beat you… but you have to train yourself to overcome it and get the best out of yourself.

So, that would be my number one training tip: don’t just look at yourself as an athlete, but as a person first. 

Any advice on teamwork?

My transition from athletics to bobsleigh taught me about a team environment. Athletics is very much an individual sport, and although I’ve been in relays in the past it was being part of the bobsleigh team that made me realise you can’t just think for yourself.

It’s about making you succeed as a group because you can’t win on your own. Especially with bobsleigh, you’re depending on someone else for your safety (such as the pilot) it’s in their hands.

I think there’s something special about that bond, when you’re travelling round as a group and working hard together; I think over a certain period of time you become so much stronger from it.

When you all put on your vests together, you think “wow, we really are all part of a special family” and you definitely have to feel like a family. We look after each other and it’s quite a wonderful thing.

How do you prepare for competitions?

I think my preparation is quite intense because I’m quite OCD in nature. I think a lot of athletes are, because you look around you for anything that could affect your performance.

The way I best prepare is by writing everything down beforehand, so I don’t have to think about it. I’ll also have everything ready in plenty of time; my bags packed the night before, what I’m going to wear is already out, my food is prepped, I know when I should and shouldn’t be drinking.

It’s important because, for example, if I was doing the 100m I couldn’t just keep drinking in case I overhydrated and got cramps.

What’s your best strategy for overcoming defeat?

I think analysing your performance in the most rational way possible can be really beneficial.

Athletes tend to dwell on things over and over again and sometimes you can’t sleep for a few days after the competitions over… but you can’t impact on it anymore because it’s done.

I think its fine to look at what you did and think of ways to get better and plan improvements for your next race, but then park it.

I think it’s really important to come away happy. If you’re not happy, have perspective and say “well why didn’t I do well, is it because of X,Y, and Z” and then that helps to bring it back in control.

It’s not just about luck, it’s about highlighting what you didn’t do, but not letting it consume you as a person and make you feel like a failure; you might not have performed particularly well that day, but you can perform better next time.

What’s the most difficult country/environment you’ve ever competed in?

The most difficult and ridiculous place I have had to perform in was at my Commonwealth Games, in Delhi.

It was honestly an absolute nightmare! There were so many things about the Games that made it difficult. I had just come back from a really bad injury, I’d had surgery 11 months before, and I wasn’t really meant to be running but I’d made the team.

The stadium wasn’t really finished, and obviously the conditions out there are very extreme. Going to India from the UK is hard to adapt to: it was boiling hot and very humid.

Beijing was humid but that was different, and there were things to deal with in Delhi that you wouldn’t even think of – like bugs! They were in the air everywhere to the point where they had to spray the stadium.

I remember going down for my race, putting my hands on the blocks and seeing a massive mosquito plant itself right by my face… I was on my marks in the stadium for the 100m heats at the Commonwealth Games!

I was just willing it not to fly in my face because if I moved, it would be a false start. So as soon as we could go, I just wanted to run away. I remember having an interview and having bugs go in my face… even the journalist from the BBC wanted to keep it short and sweet!

The conditions were just so extreme and there were so many things that distracted you from your job at hand- and that’s the last thing you want to happen! But, winning the first gold medal Team GB had won in over 25 years for the relay made it even more special – if you can overcome the bugs, you can overcome anything!

Obviously Bobsleigh is -20 degrees and on the top of a mountain, but even that I’d take any day over what I went through in Delhi!

Do you have a standout childhood or school memory?

My standout school memory would have been my first ever Sports Day. My teacher made me run with the boys. I remember her saying: “If you beat all the boys than I will give you £5!”

My dad complained and asked why I had to run with the boys and my teacher explained that having me beat the girls every year wasn’t very fair… but I didn’t think that was very fair!

I was winning right up until the very end and literally got pipped on the line, so I came second. But I remember not feeling sad or disappointed in it, because I’d done my absolute best and I was really proud of myself.

I think that kind of spurred me on, so it’s always mattered to me that I’ve performed my best. 

Do you have a favourite cheat meal?

A whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s… I shouldn’t really be having it but I do like it! That or coffee flavoured Haagen-Daaz is my absolute favourite.

My favourite flavour of Ben and Jerry’s is either Sandwich Up (oreo cookies with a cookie dough and vanilla ice cream) or half’n’half (chocolate brownie and cookie dough).

I don’t really eat that badly but I have a massive sweet tooth, so cakes and muffins tempt me!

Lastly, what’s your favourite wind-down technique?

Generally, I love going to the cinema – I’m a huge movie buff! And I love sweet popcorn as well so it works hand in hand!

As an athlete, when you go out and do something fun like going on a night out, I’m on my feet but I’m always thinking about recovering. So the cinema is somewhere I can go and feel like I’m actually recovering, because I’m sitting down doing something that I really get into.

For me, I just get really excited about going there seeing new films; I’ve actually got an unlimited card, so that's how deep my love goes for cinema.

Even after nationals, the first thing I did that night was go straight to the cinema.

The only other thing would be listening to music and like I mentioned before I love to dance: music really calms me and stops me from overthinking as well.