Athletics helped Canterbury teenager Charlotte Henrich find her voice – and she is now ready to make some noise at the 2023 Commonwealth Youth Games.
The 16-year-old 400m runner spent the first five years of her life in France and struggled to adapt after her move to the UK, where she had to learn a new language while also suffering from dyslexia.
But Henrich’s life changed forever after she competed at an athletics event in Loughborough and is now an established talent at Invicta East Kent AC.
She will be part of a 59-strong English contingent at Trinbago 2023, along with more than 1,000 young competitors aged 14 to 18 from around the world.
“Athletics literally changed my whole life,” she said.
“I went to one competition in Loughborough and I came back a completely different person.
“It was actually massive. In my primary school everyone was really academic, I used to go home feeling like I couldn't do anything!
“I couldn’t read - it was so bad - then I was home-schooled until I got into grammar school.
“I didn’t have any confidence and, now, people say I’m the most talkative person they know.
“It’s noticeable. My mum picked me up and we went to a family friend’s house, and I couldn’t stop talking.
“I haven’t stopped talking since, to be honest.
“That was two or three years ago - I went back to school as a different person.”
The seventh edition of the Commonwealth Youth Games will take place on the Islands of Trinidad and Tobago from tomorrow until next Friday.
However, it has not been a straightforward 12 months of build-up for Henrich, who is hoping to get back to her best form in the Caribbean.
She said: “It’s always a bit of a shambles with me, we never know what I’m doing.
“My aim for this year was to make it to the Commonwealth Youth Games, but my finishing times this year have just not been what I was supposed to be doing.
“So, I was like 'Oh my God, I can’t do this'.
“I wasn't supposed to go to the event that I got the qualifying time [at], we hadn't booked in time, so we had to email a load of people and be like, please?
“I got in and I just thanked the Lord. I was really scared that I wouldn't be allowed to do it.
“I’m really excited, it’s so far away, it will be really fun though.
“I always get really scared before any event; I’m just nervous because it’s a big deal.”
Henrich has a special music playlist to help keep her focused when times are tough.
“I try and use my nerves, I think music is the one,” she added. “I have got a playlist that I always listen to, and I absolutely love it.
“It calms me down, there is a lot of Dave, some Michael Jackson, it varies.”
Follow Team England’s performances at Trinbago 2023 at www.teamengland.org #BringItHome.