My 5 role models… with Emily Borthwick

My 5 role models and the ways they inspired me

This week Natalie Jackson spoke to British High Jump bronze medallist Emily Borthwick about those who inspired her to take risks and believe in herself.

Jenny Meadows

“I live in Loughborough but I grew up in Wigan, where Jenny Meadows was also from. I started athletics aged 7 and around that time all I wanted to be was the next Jenny Meadows! It is hard to overestimate the impact that a local Olympian and multiple World and European medallist has on a child starting out in athletics. Her achievements have been amazing but what inspires me most is that I have known her personally, had the privilege to train with her and seen how hard she works. She didn’t always have things easy during her career, but whether she was dealing with injuries, drugs cheats in her races, or issues surrounding her funding, it was always the same on the track. She is always so positive and always puts her all into everything that she does. That has massively inspired me in my own career, as well as showing me that if you put in the hard work, you will get the rewards.”

Jessica Ennis-Hill

“I was 15 when the 2012 Olympics was hosted in London and I had just represented England for the first time. As a teenage athlete it was impossible not to be inspired watching Jess win gold in the Olympic heptathlon on “Super Saturday”. I had recently run in the English National Schools Championships in the 800m and come last, but I read her book and learned that she had also been good, but not great, as a teenager. It made me see what might be possible for me and made me think, if she could do it, why couldn’t I?”

Harry Coppell

“Harry is my boyfriend, but he is also current British pole vault champion, after winning the event in both 2019 and 2020. This year he won with a British record jump of 5.85 metres. What I love about Harry is the way he has reacted when he hasn’t had things easy. At times has had a rough time with his athletics career but he has turned that into success. He was a part of GB teams as a junior and was the first ever British male pole vaulter to win a world title, at the U18 World Championships in Donetsk in 2013, but from 2015-2018 he struggled to make the step up to senior level and I know he found that difficult. After a change of coach, change of mindset, and a move to Loughborough he is now British record holder and I couldn’t be prouder of him. For me it is inspiring to see someone take risks and trust themselves as I’ve seen Harry do, and that makes me believe I can trust myself too, and maybe take risks I wouldn’t otherwise have taken in my own career to see where I can get to.”

My Mum, Mandy

“It’s a cliché but it’s true! My mum used to be a sprinter when she was younger and ran at national level. She was the reason I started athletics and for a while she was also my coach, which wasn’t always a positive for our relationship! My parents never made any decisions for me and have always supported my decisions about my athletics career. When I moved from the 400m to the High Jump that might have been seen as a risky thing to do but they supported me entirely and my mum even drove me 2hrs to Birmingham from Wigan to see my coach once a week. Her being sporty when I was little was massive in making it normal for me to do sport. She was busy but never too busy to fit her own training in and that inspires me still. I have so many memories of being outdoors and being active, and if we had a garden party it would always be my mum starting some sort of sports game!”


“Over the last 18 months I have achieved so much, and I believe it is important to reflect on your own successes to inspire yourself to push forward, so I’m including myself in this list! After my GCSEs and A-Levels I never thought of myself as academic but I have achieved a First Class Degree this year and managed to juggle at times up to 4 jobs to pay for my training and competitions. I look back and I am really proud of myself for that. I’m proud that I was able to travel to Birmingham 3 times a week to see my coach and I know it has helped my career. The last 8 months haven’t been easy for anyone, but after a decision to move to Loughborough to prioritise my studies and my athletics career I know I am on the right path and I’m excited to see what comes next. I am studying for a Masters in Sport and Exercise Psychology part time over 2 years and working for Totally Runable, an organisation that helps primary schools in and around Loughborough to measure and close their Gender Sport Gap. Athletics-wise I have my sights on the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022. If I could pass on one piece of advice to my younger self, or to others, I would say trust yourself, take risks, but work hard at whatever you do, and you’ll always be okay.”