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Canterbury's Grace Balsdon can't wait to savour unique home atmosphere from heart of the action for Team England at Commonwealth Games

Grace Balsdon’s ears are still ringing from the last time hockey was played in front of a home crowd at a major Games.

The 29-year-old from Canterbury was in the stands to see Team GB’s women claim bronze at London 2012.

Grace Balsdon will represent Team England at another Commonwealth Games this summer
Grace Balsdon will represent Team England at another Commonwealth Games this summer

Now she will get her own golden chance having been selected as part of Team England for a second time.

Since 2012, Balsdon has earned an Olympic bronze of her own to add to the Commonwealth Games bronze won last time out on the Gold Coast.

“I was sat in the stadium when the girls won their bronze medal,” Balsdon said.

“I just remember that it was a bit of a bowl and the noise created in that stadium was just absolutely phenomenal.

“It hurt your eardrums, it was so loud and the support from everyone in that stadium was just unbelievable, so to have that potentially this summer will be amazing and such an advantage for us playing at home.”

And while Balsdon has first-hand experience of that cauldron of noise in London, she is still keen to learn from teammate Laura Unsworth, the only remaining player from that 2012 side.

She added: “Her biggest thing is always just to try and take it all in and enjoy it.

“You might have some nerves and things like that, but these opportunities don't come around very often to play in front of our home crowd in a big multi-sport event.

“So just to enjoy it and know your role and know that you can deliver that but try to enjoy it as much as you can. These are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities so you have to really make the most of it.”

Balsdon 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.

She has brought up a century of appearances for England and Great Britain and is now a senior member of the squad, giving clarity on her role within the team.

She said: “Some of my fondest memories are from playing in my first senior tournament, which was the Commonwealth Games in 2018. I'm really looking forward to this being up in Birmingham in our home country, something that will just exceed all expectations.

“And to have that crowd I remember from 2018 now being a home crowd will just be absolutely phenomenal and I am so excited for it.

“I think I'm a lot clearer around my role and a lot more confident in my role. I know what I can bring and deliver each game and I hope that this summer I'll continue to do that.

“One of my favourite parts of the game is the penalty corners and that's where I thrive in those moments and I just hope that we can deliver those again this summer.”

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