By Ben Hart, Sportsbeat
THE label of a home Commonwealth Games could not be any more appropriate for Team England star Chris Griffiths.
His hockey career began at Kings Heath Hockey Club just a stone’s throw from where he’ll be representing his country at his second Games this summer.
And before he even returned home from Gold Coast with a bronze medal four years ago, Griffiths was already dreaming about Birmingham 2022.
There’s only 6️⃣ days to go until the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games! #B2022#TNLAthletes from the home nations met up to thank #NationalLottery players for their support and to celebrate the countdown to the Games. 🤞#MakeAmazingHappen [1/2] pic.twitter.com/Bfz6InsQff
— National Lottery Good Causes (@LottoGoodCauses) July 22, 2022
“I remember the closing ceremony in Gold Coast and that transition into the Birmingham Games,” recalled Griffiths, who is one of more than 1,100 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing them to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.
“We were sat having just competed that day, having just got the bronze medal and were already excited for four years down the line because it’s in Birmingham.
“That little piece at the end of the closing ceremony there gave me a bit more motivation going into this one.
“It’s literally on my doorstep, my folks still live half a mile from the University and my brother’s in Harborne, which is just down the road.
“It’s my first experience of a home games and it couldn’t be any closer to home. It’s really special.”
This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, will comprise of over 400 athletes, and having secured his place on the squad, Griffiths is looking to capitalise on the once in a lifetime opportunity for medal success in his home country.
Though he has amassed over 100 combined caps England and Great Britain since making his international debut in 2014, none will rival the feeling of singing the national anthem in his hometown at the end of July.
And the 31-year-old is sure to have quite the following, including his brother Michael, who helped to first foster a competitive spirit in the Old Georgians forward.
“My dad used to play and I watched him on the side-line with my brother,” said Griffiths, recalling his earliest hockey memories.
“We used to get told off and the game used to get stopped because we were arguing and bickering on the side-line.
“My brother and dad still play locally for Harborne, so there’s gonna be a few guys there [watching in Birmingham] who I used to play with and still speak to regularly, so that’s gonna be extra special.”
With the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games set to inspire people and communities across the country this summer, Griffiths hopes sharing his story will give others motivation to get involved in sport and turn their dreams into reality.
Despite being one of the older members of the squad, Griffiths, who is an Aston Villa season-ticket holder, has less tournament experience than many of his teammates, having been ruled out of the 2016 Olympics and 2018 World Cup through injury.
And having been denied the opportunity to play on the biggest stages twice already in his career, Griffiths’ homecoming will be all the sweeter.
“The World Cup was probably more devastating than the Olympics because it was so close,” he said.
“But those setbacks only drive you forwards, you work harder and the motivation for this was so high.
“Then you picture yourself in a sell-out crowd in Birmingham and hopefully those setbacks will all be worth it in the end.”
National Lottery players raise more than £30million a week for good causes including vital funding into sport – from grassroots to elite. Find out how your numbers make amazing happen at: www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtag: #TNLAthletes.