Rebecca Bedford is ready for the spotlight to fall solely on her as she makes her Commonwealth Games debut, writes Sportsbeat's Milly McEvoy.
The Yoxall powerlifter spent over ten years sharing the limelight with an opponent as she competed in para-badminton.
With her SS6 category not included in the Tokyo Paralympics, the 24-year-old switched to powerlifting.
With just one competitor on stage at once, Bedford’s adversary is mental rather than physical.
“I think all sports have a really big mental side,” said the Staffordshire star. “Powerlifting also, because there's a long waiting period between lifts and from getting to the competition venue and waiting to go on stage.
“And you're the only one on stage, competing at a time, so it's about controlling those nerves and that anxiety.
“Also fueling your adrenaline making sure you are in the best mood possible for that single lift.
“It's a lot for just a few seconds, but those two seconds is what determine your result, so there's a huge mental side behind it.
📣 𝙏𝙚𝙖𝙢 𝘼𝙣𝙣𝙤𝙪𝙣𝙘𝙚𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩
Congratulations to our Weightlifting and Para Powerlifting team who have officially been selected for @birminghamcg22 🥳
They're now part of the pride & we're delighted to see them conquering at the Games this year#BringItHome pic.twitter.com/ctXtGvHGkt
— Team England (@TeamEngland) May 25, 2022
"Knowing that I was on stage ought to be more daunting. However, I know that it's only me who can affect the result. Everything is down to me.
“I don’t have to rely on other people or worry about necessarily what other people are doing. It feels very much more like I'm in control, which almost makes me less anxious about it just being me.”
With the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games set to inspire people and communities across the country this summer, Bedford hopes sharing her story will give others motivation to get involved in sport and turn their dreams into reality.
Bedford will be cheered on by a home crowd at Birmingham 2022 with plenty of family set to make the short trip from her native Staffordshire.
It will mark a welcome change from the soulless live-streams her family have had to watch for the past couple of years with Covid limiting fan attendance.
And while Bedford will have her own personal cheerleaders, plenty will also be celebrating the diversity on show in England’s second city.
Birmingham 2022 will become the first Games to have more women’s events than men’s and more para-events than ever before, something Bedford is proud to be a part of.
She added: “It’s great to see how women's sport has really developed over the past few years. There's still a long way to go.
“But just from every sport, it's definitely getting better. And there's definitely much more visibility on TV or in newspapers, so it's definitely improving.
“I think that's going to have a massive effect to the younger generation seeing this and actually being able to see women doing high-level sports, so they've got role models.”
This summer, Team England, supported by National Lottery funding, will comprise of over 400 athletes in total, and having secured her place on the squad, Bedford is looking to capitalise on the once in a lifetime opportunity for medal success in her home country.
And Bedford could well play a part in inspiring the next generation, as she knows it only takes a couple of attempts at powerlifting to get you hooked.
Since switching sports, Bedford has broken her British record, putting her in great stead to make her Commonwealth Games bow.
“It was really exciting every time I got a PB on the bench just getting stronger and stronger and I could see the physical change in my own body as well,” she said.
“It’s just exciting being able to see that improvement every single time I competed and got on the bench and it's got a very nice structured training scheme and competition calendar.
“It was just really, once you get on it and start improving, it's quite addictive, and you just keep going and going.”
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