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Hannah Russell looking forward to ‘special moment’ at Commonwealth Games

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.

Commonwealth Games debutant Hannah Russell says it will be a ‘surreal’ but ‘special moment’ to represent Team England at Birmingham 2022.

Paralympic champion Russell has hailed the inclusivity of the Games for including races for those with visual impairments for the first time.

And she is hopeful of delivering her ‘absolute best’ to help inspire the next generation of upcoming athletes.

Russell is competing in the S13 50m Freestyle – a race she finished sixth in at the rearranged Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games last year.

The 25-year-old said: “Being part of Team England is absolutely incredible.

“I’m a debutant and it’s such a surreal feeling putting on that kit and I have goosebumps just talking about it now.

“To have Birmingham 2022 be my first Commonwealth Games is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – there’s not many athletes who can say that they’ve competed at a home Commonwealth Games.

“It will be such a special moment as it’s the very first time they’ve included a visually-impaired classification race for the Commonwealth Games. 

“So that just goes to show that the inclusiveness within the Games is just growing,

Little bit of a push

“My very first Paralympic Games was at the London 2012 Paralympics and that experience was absolutely incredible – out of this world. 

“I remember walking out to the 17,000 crowd at the London Aquatics Centre, getting chills down my spine, and it was deafening the noise. 

“The home crowd just lifted you right up. 

“And I’m so excited to be able to have that opportunity again – being able to walk out and just have that team support from the nation.

“Knowing that you’ve got your home nation behind you just gives you that extra little bit of a push.

“You’re doing it for yourself, you’re doing it for your family, coaches, friends but also for your nation.”

Russell is also looking forward to competing in front of her family after they missed out on being in the stands at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games due to Covid restrictions in place.

Really important to me

She said: “It was quite sad, deep down, not having the support with family and friends in the crowds [in Tokyo].

“It was a little bit of a struggle. It didn’t affect my performance, but I am someone who is very close to my family.

“So to know that they’ll be there in the stands gives me that extra push – it’ll be really exciting.”

Russell has eight Paralympic medals to her name and would love to add a Commonwealth gong to her collection for Team England – as well as inspiring others to follow their dreams.

She said: “I was absolutely delighted with my performances and Tokyo – to defend my Paralympic title was something when I was a young girl, I never dreamed of doing.

“Going into this Commonwealth Games, I’m doing the 50m Freestyle, which is an event I’ve been competing in throughout my career. 

“I want to deliver my absolute best performance. I would love to deliver a PB and see where that gets me.

“To inspire the next generation of upcoming athletes, women in sport, visually-impaired athletes and just the generic generation is really important to me. 

“And if I’m able to do that, that’s my job done.”

Main picture: Team England