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Buxton's Abbie Wood can't wait to be back swimming in front of her parents and packed stands when the Commonwealth Games head to Birmingham this summer.
Wood, 23, has become one of British Swimming’s most promising athletes in recent years, making a splash at Olympic, Commonwealth, World and European level in recent seasons.
With Covid forcing events behind closed doors and coinciding with her rapid rise in the sport, Wood has not competed in front of friends and family since the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast four years ago.
And with fans back in Birmingham this summer, Wood hopes that her parents will be able to watch her go for gold on home soil.
“My parents have got tickets so just being able to see them in the crowd will be so nice, because it’s been so long since they’ve got to do that,” she said.
“I want to perform as well as I can in front of a home crowd and in front of my parents, who haven’t seen me race since I’ve stepped it up a bit.
“Probably the last major meet they saw me race at was the last Commonwealth Games so I think it'll be nice for them to be a part of it and show them how far I’ve come.
“I had such a good experience [in Gold Coast] so I can only imagine Birmingham will be better because it’s a home Games. We’ll get that extra bit of support - that’ll be nice!”
Wood 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.
Wood admits that she approached the last Commonwealth Games four years ago as a ‘free hit’, having very little experience on the international stage at that stage of her career.
Having won two European titles in 2020 and reach three finals at the Olympic Games last summer, she now holds loftier ambitions.
She said: “I think it was my second senior international meet so I think it was a much more relaxed Games. It was really nice in the sun and it was a really nice team, with really nice staff around us.
“Before I was just very happy to be selected for the team - which obviously I am this time - but I feel now like I’m ready to race and get amongst all the racing rather than just being there for the ride.”
This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, will comprise over 400 athletes.
Having secured her place on the squad, Wood is looking to capitalise on the once in a lifetime opportunity for medal success in her home country.
She said: “I do feel like I’m a very different athlete to who I was four years ago. I was very nervous at Gold Coast and I feel like Tokyo has just built my confidence.
“It’s a lot more exciting in the last few months leading up to the games rather than nerves, which obviously will be there on the day - but it’s not as nerve wracking as it was when I was 18.”
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