Athletes representing each of the UK’s home nations came face to face for the first time this week as the build up to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games continued.
With only two weeks left to go until the Commonwealth Games bursts onto our screens, athletes representing Team England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland descended on Centenary Square in front of the iconic Library of Birmingham for a unique and exclusive photo shoot.
Team Wales’ Olivia Breen, Team England’s Jordan Houlden, Northern Ireland’s Caroline O’Hanlon, and Team Scotland’s Lynsey Spiers were in attendance to mark the landmark occasion.
The photocall and get-together had been organised by The National Lottery as part of the build up to what promises to be 11 days of unforgettable sporting action. With anticipation for the Games bubbling away nicely, the athletes from each nation had the opportunity to share their thoughts on the 2022 Games.
This summer, Team England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, supported by funding raised by National Lottery’ players, will comprise of over 1000 athletes, all looking to capitalise on the once in a lifetime opportunity for medal success in Birmingham.
Breen, who will compete on the track, is looking for a podium finish.
“Yes, I think it is the most confident I have felt heading into a major competition,” said Breen. “And an event likes this, meeting athletes from the other nations, makes it feel very real suddenly.
“Last year, I had an injury heading into Tokyo, a shoulder injury, and I was a bit hit and miss.
“This year, I always train hard, but I have trained particularly hard, and my body is in a really good way physically and my mind mentally.
“I definitely think there is a personal best in me, so fingers crossed.”
With the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games set to inspire people and communities across the country this summer, Houlden, who will compete in the diving, hopes sharing his story will give others motivation to get involved in sport and turn their dreams into reality.
He said: “It is very good to know that The National Lottery are there to help athletes.
“The support has helped me in a lot of ways, paying for food and paying for travel.
“Without the support from The National Lottery, I probably would have had to have got a job, and I would not have been able to devote so much time to diving as I could have, so it has been a huge help to me.
“It just means I can get more training days, and those couple of extra hours a day really does make a difference.
“Knowing The National Lottery is there for athletes is so great to know and great to see.”
Doctor, netballer, and Gaelic football star, O’Hanlon admits that the day job puts the trials and tribulations of being an international athlete into perspective.
O’Hanlon will lead Team Northern Ireland in netball at this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, three years after helping club side Manchester Thunder to the 2019 Superleague title.
“In terms of work, it is a good reality check to realise that there are things beyond sport and that you are dealing with stress and pressure and time management,” said O’Hanlon.
“So that is obviously vital when you’re competing in sport, just dealing with pressure but also it gives that reality check that it is just sport at the end of the day.
“It is a big effort, but it is definitely worth it, and as I say, I travel to compete throughout the year, and if I wasn’t enjoying it or if I didn’t still have that buzz around it, then I would not be doing it.”
Team Scotland athlete Speirs believes this summer’s Commonwealth Games is the perfect platform to grow a new format of Wheelchair Basketball and inspire the next generation to get involved.
Wheelchair basketball is set to make its Commonwealth Games debut in Birmingham after being adapted to a fast-paced 3×3 format.
“It is my first Commonwealth Games, and it is by far the biggest competition I have ever been part of, so I am really excited and really proud,” she said.
“The fact that it is in Birmingham as well makes it even more special because all my family and friends can travel here from Scotland to show their support.”
National Lottery players raise more than £30million a week for good causes including vital funding into sport – from grassroots to elite. Find out how your numbers make amazing happen at: www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtag: #TNLAthletes.