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Years in the planning but Commonwealth Games starting to feel very real for Grant

It’s been almost 1,000 days in the planning – but for Grant Robins, the Commonwealth Games is finally starting to feel very real.

Last week, the 48-strong swimming squad which will represent Team England at Birmingham 2022 was confirmed and, this weekend, a Prep the Pool test event is taking place at Sandwell Aquatics Centre.

There are now less than 10 weeks until the first swimmers will dive into the brand new pool, specially constructed for the Games, on Friday 29 July.

However, it promises to be a frantic few weeks before the Commonwealth Games with the World Championships still to come first but Robins, Team England’s swimming team leader, is relishing what lies ahead.

He said: “It’s been a long time coming but we’re getting to the point where it’s getting exciting.

“We can almost touch it, we can almost feel it.

“There’s been a lot of ifs and buts up to this point but now we have our team, it’s starting to feel a bit more real now.

Huge message

“We’ve got down the best Games ever as a mission. We want some medals, of course we want some medals, but we want this to be one team.

“It’s a big squad but what’s beautiful about it is it’s able-bodied athletes and para-swimmers together.

“It’s an opportunity to learn together, race together, be part of the success and support when facing challenges.

“Across any four-year cycle, para and Olympic swimming don’t merge other than the Commonwealth Games.

“What an opportunity that is to sell the sport for all people, for all diverse natures.

“I want that to be a huge message come the beginning of August.

“I want everybody on the team to have a positive experience and to feel part of something and to leave with many of those aspirations achieved.

Selling the dream

“If we get season’s bests, we will come home with some decent medals which will show on the medal table, support Team England as a whole and we will be very satisfied with the end result as well.”

The team will come together at a holding camp in July before heading to Birmingham and Robins hopes the performances in the pool will be an inspiration to so many.

“There will be a fantastic atmosphere at the pool,” he said. “Five thousand people in there with a low roof will create a lot of noise and energy.

“We have evening finals going on until 10pm and with the lights on and the music playing, hopefully we will be a position to challenge.

“Manchester 2002, London 2012 and now Birmingham 2022. All those venues, those three areas in the country, have all inspired local people and the nation as a whole.

“This is a feel-good factor. This is selling the dream that sport can change lives, sport can add memories, sport can contribute to your friendship group.

“Birmingham will help us do that. It will be a fantastic atmosphere and we’re looking forward to it.”