Team England para athlete Hetty Bartlett finally feels ‘at home’ as she heads towards a Commonwealth Games debut in Birmingham, writes Jack Lacey-Hatton.
Bartlett, who will compete in the T38 100m, has experienced a rollercoaster ride in athletics over recent years, from changing para classifications to thinking she had missed out on a Paralympic debut, only for a last minute change of fate to see her compete in Tokyo.
She had previously competed in both long jump and the 100m in the T20, but now the Suffolk sprinter gets her chance to race in a category she feels she belongs in.
“When I was in T20, I knew I wasn’t in the right family,” explained Bartlett. “I could tell I didn’t belong in that category.
“I didn’t have the same strength as those athletes, I was smaller, I knew it wasn’t the right fit.
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“I always thought ‘why am I like not like that’ and didn’t understand. It made me not like myself.
“Thankfully my ex-long jump coach said I needed to get tested for cerebral palsy. So I did and found it down my entire right side.
“It was a shock to me and my family, but it has led to me now racing in the T38 and I now feel like I belong.”
This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, will comprise of over 400 athletes, and having secured her place on the squad, Bartlett is looking to capitalise on the once in a lifetime opportunity for medal success in her home country.
And with the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games set to inspire people and communities across the country this summer, Bartlett hopes sharing her story will give others motivation to get involved in sport and turn their dreams into reality.
Bartlett came sixth in the T38 long jump at the Paralympics last summer, but only after she was originally told she wasn’t in the squad.
The build-up to Birmingham has thankfully been a lot more straight forward.
“It is nice to have a bit of preparation for this one,” Bartlett laughed. “I was really happy to get the call.
“With the Paralympics I was told two weeks before. There was a lot to do in such a short time, particularly with the Covid testing.
“With the Commonwealth Games I have known for longer and it has been a more relaxed build-up.
“I’ve actually had time to process it all, hopefully that will help.
“I’d never had such a big competition before Tokyo and I’ve now got some experience to lean on when I’m in that environment.”
Competing at a home Games will see things come full circle for Bartlett, who was first inspired to take up sport a decade ago – the last time an English city hosted a major sporting event.
“I went to watch the London Paralympic Games with my dad in 2012,” she added.
“I was just speechless at the time. I’d never really heard of para sport before then, so to go see those Games in the flesh changed my life, it was an amazing experience.
“I turned to the Dad with my mouth on the floor, when I could finally speak I told him ‘that is what I want to do.’”
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