“I’m A Celeb – the food’s hard, having no contact with the outside world is hard… here is physically and mentally challenging. It is tough,” Adlington told RadioTimes.com, now two weeks into her winter sports training.
She’s made it harder for herself, signing up despite never having actually skied.
“Because of sport you’re not allowed to do anything dangerous, so I’ve never been allowed horse riding or skiing or anything like that,” explained the successful competitive swimmer, who retired in 2013 with various medals to her name, including those two golds at the 2008 Olympic Games. “It’s not a case of I’ve not wanted to or anything like that. It’s just been a case of not being allowed. It’s really nice now, I feel like I’ve got a bit of freedom to do it.”
Adlington said she was actually asked to take part in The Jump last year, but was pregnant with her daughter Summer. Having been in the jungle with 2015’s eventual Jump champ Joey Essex, Adlington watched at home and knew she wanted to do it when she could.
“It was really great watching. It’s always one of those really funny shows, it is massively entertaining. When you’re learning a skill it’s different. It’s not a Big Brother, it’s not an I’m A Celeb – you’re learning something. You’re challenging yourself every day. I thought, ‘Why not?’ Summer is young enough that she doesn’t understand. I think it would be hard in a few years time when she’s going ‘Mummy, why are you leaving?’ So I thought now was the perfect opportunity. I’ve always wanted to learn to ski.”
But while she’s enjoying the skiing and looks forward to future family holidays on the slopes, the ski jump itself is proving quite the challenge, with Adlington admitting it’s “massively upsetting”. The huge new-look eliminator – three times the size of a double decker bus – decides who leaves the competition each week. Jump a shorter distance than your rival and you’re out.
“I just burst into tears as soon as I walked out. It was crazy. When you watch it on TV I don’t think it does it justice. You can’t get the scale of it. When you get there you’re like oh my god. It’s insane. It is nerve wracking.
“You don’t feel safe,” Adlington continued. “People keep comparing it to a rollercoaster, but it’s not. I love rollercoasters. On a rollercoaster I’m sat down, strapped in, I feel much safer. I love that. I don’t necessarily love being stood there with no protection, not strapped in, no nothing…”
When we speak she’s taking a rest day from the jump having had a bad fall the day before, hurting her shoulder. They have to get straight back up and “crack on” she says, laughing there’s “no rest for the wicked”. And, ever the sports woman, Adlington knows she’s got to work on the mental challenges as much as the physical, particularly with fellow new skier actress Louisa Lytton.
“The fear is taking over too much. We’re letting our mental sides gets in the way, we’re just so scared. It’s so unknown – we’ve never done anything like this. For a skier, when they go down the red runs you are on such a steep hill you are used to looking down, for a beginner, we’ve never even stood on a slope that high. So for us to stand at the jump was more terrifying.”
There’s a healthy haul of sports stars this year and Adlington says former Olympic gymnast Beth Tweddle is “fearless”, zipping from beginner ski lessons to advanced within the space of a day. Actor Dean Cain is also one to watch she says – “he’s Superman, of course” – and former EastEnders star Sid Owen is proving a big contender: “Nothing phases Sid at all.”
Back in the contestant ‘palace’, which sees the competitors live together for the first time, Adlington says it’s a nice atmosphere with everyone donning their pjs and catching up after a day’s training. And it led to quite the moment for the self-confessed Westlife fan girl.
“I’m not going to lie, Brian McFadden made my life last night – he sang Flying Without Wings. He said, ‘Beck, you’re hurt’ and then sang the whole song. Being a Westlife fan, can you imagine?! It was really nice, he’s an amazing singer. It was great that he sang to me.”
As for whether she’s got winning on her mind – Joey Essex won without ever skiing afer all – Adlington laughed: “No, Joey’s mental. You cannot compare anyone to Joey Essex that’s for certain. Nothing phases Joey.
“I’m so proud of myself, how far I’ve come. I’ve still got a long way to go but I’m proud of how far I’ve come. I know I’m not going to be in it till the end, it’s just an amazing show.”
The Jump starts Sunday 31st at 7:30pm on Channel 4