BIRMINGHAM-born squash player Sarah-Jane Perry insists she is focused on winning the gold medal at this summer’s Commonwealth Games after being named as part of a nine-strong Team England squad.
Perry, who was born at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in the city and grew up in Sutton Coldfield, won silver at Gold Coast 2018 and is determined to go one better at her home Games.
And Perry, who trains at West Warwickshire Sports Club in Solihull, is under no illusion with regards to the challenge ahead in her quest to win gold.
Perry said: “I’m going in with very different expectations to last time, last time I was just happy to get a medal, this time the focus is on that gold medal, it’s going to be hard graft and a hard task, I’m massively up for that challenge.
“I learnt a lot from that experience, I was hyper-aware of not wanting to be overawed by everything about it, I’m a big sports fan and there were so many amazing athletes just walking around and sitting near you in the dining hall, I dealt with that really well last time.
“It’s fantastic to be selected again, the Gold Coast was my first Games, it’s really different this time, I’m not a debutante, only coming home with the silver medal and coming so close to the gold medal, it’s been at the forefront of my mind since the last Games, it’s made it even more of a priority.”
The world number six moved, with her family, to Kenilworth at the age of eight and has remained local to the area having graduated from the University of Warwick in 2011.
Perry started playing the sport at Four Oaks Squash Club as a youngster and is looking forward to competing in front of those who have supported her throughout her career in her home city.
Perry added: “It’s really hard to put into words how special it is to have all your friends and family able to come and watch you without having to trek across the globe.
“There’s so many people that have supported me in so many ways over the years it’s just amazing that they can all come and support me in person at the Games, it’s very special.
“I think it will be really good to see my family and my son during the Games and not have to speak to them on the phone, it brings you back down to reality and brings things back into focus.
“My childhood coach Steve Townsend, who still coaches at Kenilworth and Warwick University now, he instilled a lot of faith in me when I was a junior there, he was the one who encouraged me to take squash seriously and see how far I could push myself.
“I owe him a lot, he coached me from the age of 10 until I was 25, he put up with me for a long time! He’ll definitely be watching from the sidelines.”
And Perry hopes this summer’s Games will leave a legacy for the sport in Birmingham and the surrounding areas as she attempts to inspire the next generation of players.
She said: “The potential legacy side of the Games is huge, squash has specifically been targeting being the sport that gets the most out of the legacy side, not just inspiring young children and everyone to be active and participate in sport but introducing squash to a whole host of people who have never seen it before and showing them where they can play.
“It’s about giving access to squash and other sports, particularly children in deprived areas, there are quite a lot of deprived areas in the West Midlands, the impact these Games can have on those children and families is absolutely massive.
“A lot of the squash projects that are happening are amazing, there’s whole teams of people that are working on ensuring whatever the barriers are to people being active and accessing a sport, there’s a sport for everyone, they’re finding out what’s stopping them and how we can get around those barriers to make sure there is access and make sure the legacy of the Birmingham 2022 Games is bigger than any Games that there has been.”
The squash event at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games takes place at The University of Birmingham’s Hockey and Squash Centre.