After over two years of competing in front of reduced or no crowds, many athletes heading for this summer’s Commonwealth Games will likely thrive off the atmosphere that spectators naturally bring.
However, for English athletes in particular, that will be intensified due to the home crowd, with British athletes from the other Home Nations also likely to benefit from increased support.
As an athlete, how do you ensure that you use the home crowd support to your advantage, and don’t get overwhelmed by it? Ellie Simmonds competed – and won two golds – in front of home fans at London 2012. Here, she explains her approach.
“While it’s a fantastic privilege to be able to compete at a major event in front of your home support, you do need to think about how you’re going to approach the experience, and make sure you use the crowd’s energy in a way that will work for you.”
“In London, I was very conscious that I wanted to take everything in and enjoy the noise and the colour, but also that I had a job to do and races to win.
“When I walked out onto poolside after being introduced to the crowd, I had one headphone in, listening to music as I normally would before a big race, and one headphone out, so I could take in some of the atmosphere and the excitement being generated by the amazing London crowd.
“The kind of 50/50 approach summed up my attitude towards it: yes, I was there to stay focused on my race and execute my plans, but I also knew that the home crowd could give me an extra 1%, and I needed to utilise that.
“That worked for me, but there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Even given recent events, most athletes will have vast experience of competing in front of supportive crowds – whether it be at a big event, or in front of your family members when you were a bit younger.
“Remember and visualise what worked for you then, and try to replicate it in Birmingham. Don’t be put off if you see another athlete staying completely in the zone, or someone else really going out of their way to interact with the crowd. You know what works for you.
“What I would say is that there’s no need to put extra pressure on yourself because of the home support. Those people are there to support and cheer for you; they will know how much this moment means to you and how much work you’ve put in to get there. Regardless of the final outcome, they will take enjoyment and pride from your performance.”