Alice Tai says the Commonwealth Games have a ‘special place in her heart’

With a home Commonwealth Games just around the corner, we take a look at the athletes who will be competing for Team England this summer.

Alice Tai is looking for more success on home turf as she looks to follow up from the seven gold medals that she won at the London 2019 World Championships.

Speaking ahead of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, Tai is looking forward to the event, saying the Games have a special place in her heart.

“It’s incredible to be a part of the squad and I’m very excited about this competition,” she said.

“I had World Championships a few weeks ago, obviously that was Great Britain, but I’m even more excited to be a part of Team England here.

“The Commonwealths just has a special place in my heart, you know? It’s just going to be so much fun.”

She’s already had success in Team England colours too, after winning gold and silver at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018, an experience she looks back on fondly.

“Super, super special.

“The crowd in Australia were insane and they weren’t even a home crowd!

“I’m really excited to go out and hopefully have a home crowd that will cheer, roar or whatever to just get that adrenaline pumping before my race. It’s going to be special.”

“It gave me a new outlook on the sport”

Tai is back in competitive action after some injury issues over the last year.

She had to withdraw from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics due to an elbow injury before having an amputation on her right leg at the beginning of the year.

Tai was a big part of the media coverage for the Tokyo Paralympics, something which has given her a fresh outlook on the sport.

“It’s strange but being with the media gave me a new outlook on the sport and just sport in general to be honest,” she added.

“So it’s cool to be back with that alternate perspective and insights into other areas.

“But, it’s much better to be back in the pool instead of watching from a studio.”

Since returning to action, Tai has been building up her pace and recently took a silver medal at the 2022 Para-Swimming World Championships in the S8 100m Freestyle.

The 23-year old was incredibly proud of her medal winning performance in Madeira and is hopeful of more success in the Commonwealth Games.

“So I’ve got a 100m Freestyle, S9, which I have to swim up a category with athletes who are less impaired so it’s going to be a lot harder for me to final in that.

“But that’s my first race, so a bit of a warm up and I’m very excited to hopefully go faster than I did a month ago.

“Then I’ve got my main event, which is the 100m Backstroke in the S8 category, which is my classification.

“I think I could potentially medal but let’s wait and see because I don’t want to put too much on the table and ruin it for myself.”

‘You can see the improvement in exposure’

The Commonwealth Games is renowned for becoming the first fully inclusive international multi-sport Games, with both able bodied and para-swimming athletes competing at the same competition.

Tai describes this as a ‘unique’ and ‘exciting’ experience, saying: “It’s quite unique having a major competition that is integrated.

“I think it’s really cool to do that and to just have an event in the middle of able bodied events.

“That then also will get more people with more people with impairments into the pool, which would be awesome.

“It’s just a bit of fun, bit different, get to learn new things from the able bodied athletes.”

Tai’s performances over the years have inspired many young people to get involved in swimming, and she believes events like this are crucial in growing the sport.

“Super, super important. I mean swimming in general, British Swimming, British Para-Swimming, you can see the improvement and exposure after things like Peaty getting multiple golds and there was such a boom in medals and talent.

“It’s the same in para-swimming, but on an even higher level.

“It’s still a growing sport and every year there are more and more children and young adults that turn up on poolside and it’s really exciting because it changes so quick.

“The people I’m racing this year will be different to next year and the year after, so it really keeps you on your toes too.”

Main picture: Team England