For British athletes, this summer’s Commonwealth Games will be another opportunity to compete on home soil, in relatively familiar surroundings and in front of a crowd likely to be populated with friends and family members.
The Birmingham Games will also bring about an – what is for many, rare – opportunity to experience competing for your home nation, for a different flag and in a different kit, but with all the usual intensity of international competition.
How does the experience differ from competing for Great Britain? What are the benefits, and are there any drawbacks? 400m runner Cameron Chalmers represented Great Britain in Tokyo last year, and his native Guernsey at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. He gives his views here.
“Growing up in Guernsey, the Commonwealth Games is the highest level competition at which you can represent the island, so since starting athletics at 16 I had always had my eye on making the team for the Gold Coast Games in 2018.
“Earning my selection and being named in the team was therefore a great moment which I had worked very hard for over the best part of five years.
“In the build-up to the Games I flew out to New Zealand to adjust to the time zone and get some good warm weather training in. I managed to get two races in before the Games, racing against some of the other athletes, including those from other British nations.
“Doing this before and during the Games – with all of us competing in our respective national vests – felt very much like business as usual when we were on the track, even though I was friends with many of my competitors.
“For me and for many other athletes, it’s not necessarily unusual to compete against your Great Britain team-mates, as individually we race each other at the British trials each year.
“Being so used to competing in a Great Britain vest, it was an amazing feeling to have a Guernsey one on for a major championship. I remember feeling very proud to have made it to that level and to be a small part of putting my island on the map and being competitive.
“I had first worn a Guernsey vest for inter-island school athletics back when I was in year 8, so standing on the start line at the Commonwealth Games and seeing the Guernsey flag next to my name on the big screen was a feeling I’ll always remember.
“Another memory I will always cherish is spotting a few Guernsey flags in the crowd as I walked out to my starting blocks. As we were all the way out in Australia and I was about run in the biggest race of my life at that point, this was very special.
“Having now competed at all the major championships including the Olympics for Team GB, I still hold the Commonwealth Games right up there as one of my favourite competitions – mainly for just how much I enjoyed the whole experience and the relaxed nature of the Guernsey team, which allowed me lots of flexibility to prepare exactly how I wanted to and make key decisions myself, along with my coach.
“If I were to offer any advice to athletes aiming to compete for their nation at their first Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this summer, it would be to savour each moment as much as you can, because it all comes and goes so fast.
“It takes years of hard work to make that dream a reality and many will try and never get the opportunity, so take in every special moment and make some amazing memories that I can promise you will last a lifetime.”