Interview: Team England Paralympic athlete Bethany Woodward

Sports Mole speaks to Paralympic athlete Bethany Woodward as she embarks on an unfamiliar long jump event at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

For many athletes, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games are the perfect opportunity to build on previous success, but for Paralympic star Bethany Woodward, the Brit is hoping to add another string to her bow with a new discipline.

The 21-year-old, who earned silver and bronze medals at London 2012 Olympics in the T37 200m and 4x100m relay respectively, will represent the 129-strong Team England in the F37/F38 long jump.

Woodward already has Commonwealth Games experience having finished fifth in the T37 100m in Delhi, and her eyes are firmly set on a medal as she enters Glasgow 2014.

Sports Mole caught up with her to discuss the upcoming Games.

Bethy Woodward at the ParalympicsGB launch in summer 2012© Getty Images

Firstly, how have your preparations been going, and are you excited now that the Games are just around the corner?

"Yeah, definitely. My preparations have gone quite well. I'm doing two events this year, and I'm also doing the 400m in the European, and the long jump in the Commonwealth Games. It's been interesting to match two events up and try and do well in both of them. It's been really good to be at the holding camp, so I can focus myself on the long jump in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully I'll come out and do okay!"

You've had previous success in the 400m and 200m, so how do you expect to do in the long jump?

"Well, it's a very new event to me - I've only been doing it this year, but I think it's also a new event for a couple of the girls going into the Commonwealths. We're all sort of in the same boat, which is quite good. It's gone quite well so far - I think it's really nice to be able to have the opportunity to do something completely different to what I would naturally gravitate towards, so yeah, I'm hoping it will go well. I'm confident in the fact that we're all sort of in the same boat and at the same standard. So, it will be quite a good event to be part of."

Do you feel like it's slightly out of your comfort zone?

"Yeah, I think it is out of my comfort zone, but at the same moment, it's great to be able to do something different. Not a lot of athletes get to go and do something completely different to what they normally do and so I'm really happy in that fact. I feel very lucky, actually, to be able to have an event in the Commonwealth Games because not all of the Paralympic events are there."

Given that this is your second Commonwealth Games, do you think that experience will play an important factor?

"Yeah, 100%! The first Commonwealth Games was my first major event ever, and it was a complete learning curve for me in terms of a multi-sport event, or even a high-profile event. So, this time coming to it, I feel a lot more comfortable and I think it being my second Games, it's a great advantage for me."

Bethy Woodward races for the line in Birmingham on June 29, 2013.© Getty Images

Glasgow will have the biggest Para-sport programme in the history of the Games with 22 medal events in total. What do you think that says about how Para-sport has grown?

"It says a lot. I think London 2012 was a massive driving force for that and I think before then, even with Delhi, it was great to be able to be integrated into a multi-sport event. [Being] with the able-bodied side and the Paralympic side is great as well. With [Glasgow] having more of a bigger timetable of Paralympic events, that's just completely testament to London 2012."

You mentioned the London Olympics. Do you think that there is an advantage competing on British shores, or does that put more pressure on local athletes to perform?

"I think from the aspect of preparation it's brilliant because I just drove about an hour-and-a-half to the holding camp and then the plane journey will only be about half an hour. So, I think that is a massive advantage. Also, the crowd as well. In London it was not daunting whatsoever - it was a warming, home crowd and that put a sense of calmness in me and it made me feel like 'this is my home and all these people in the stadium are supporting me'. So, it will be nice to have that feeling again and I think it's a complete advantage to have it on home soil."

What do you personally feel that you need to achieve from these Games to deem it a success for you?

"I think a medal would be great. Again, it's such a new event to me, I'd just be interested to see where I can get within it because the 200m has been taken out of the programme for my classification in Rio 2016, so I'm looking to see if I can fill that with something. If the long jump goes well and I feel that I'm at a good standard in it and that it's in the programme for Rio, then I may think about doing that as well as my 400m in Rio. [The Commonwealths] are a really nice introduction to the event to me and also all the other girls in the event as well. We can see how we do as we're two years behind Rio."

Bethy Woodward poses with the silver medal that she won at the London Payalympics on September 05, 2012.© Getty Images

A lot of athletes have said that the Games are good preparation for the Rio Olympics because of the multi-sport environment. Do you agree with that?

"Yeah, 100%. I think Delhi was a great experience for London 2012 - just to be able to have the experience of the Athletes' Village, have the experience of the food hall and different countries and different sports there as well. It's a great learning curve for the Olympics."

The Commonwealths are often described as the 'Friendly Games'. Would you say that's accurate?

"Yeah, I definitely think is it the 'Friendly Games', but it's also nice to be able to break down Great Britain and have pride for your individual team - for England or have pride for being Welsh or Scottish. So, it's really nice to be able to give back to that as well and be representing England."

How do you expect Team England to do overall?

"Looking around, there's lots of fresh new faces and new athletes coming through now, and the team spirit in the camp is really great and so I think that that can definitely be carried forward into a great performance on the track. With everyone supporting everyone, I think there's that thing where lots of people start to do well and that carries onto everyone else. I think the team are going to do really well this year."

Follow the Commonwealth Games with Sports Mole from July 23 until August 3.

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