Amid the joyous scenes of celebration that accompanied England Women’s remarkable silver medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games; a team achieved its goal and inspired a nation half the world away.
“In the moment it felt surreal,” recalled England’s Siobhán Prior.
“I remember at the buzzer, when we had secured a place in the final, I was celebrating on court but it almost felt like it was happening to someone else – like I couldn’t fully comprehend what we had just done.
“It was a bit of a whirlwind from that point onwards. The final few days of the Games unfolded so quickly.
“Just before we went out to collect the medals, as they began to play the walk-on music, I thought about myself as a little girl watching my idols being presented with their medals.
As we stood alongside one another to be presented with our medals I definitely had an urge to pinch myself to check it was all real.
“But on the other hand, in the moment, I was able to reflect on just how much we had achieved.
“In that sense, everything seemed perfectly real.
“As a team we entered the Games with a focus on taking one fixture at a time – living in the moment, focusing entirely on the process of how best to beat our next opponent.
“That daily routine became engrained in all of us: clarity of thought and executing on court.
“Our coaching staff ensured we remained grounded and our sights set on the game in front of us.
“Of course there were moments along the way that would occasionally nudge us out of that pattern, such as the first time we entered the athlete’s village.
“It was during those moments that the enormity of the task we were trying to achieve really sunk in.
“At times, keeping a balance between really enjoying the experience and concentrating on the task in hand was difficult.
“That’s when our coaching staff were particularly great. They helped us deal with all the mental stimuli around us.
“It’s really only now that the games are finished that I can truly look back on the last couple of weeks.
“The consistency of our performance didn’t begin on the court.
“It very much began with our preparation; in our attitudes towards one another and towards the process we all committed to be a part of.
“The strength of our play was very much a reflection of the values we have as a group.
“To defeat Canada in the semi-finals, a team who we lost to by over 30 points in the group phase speaks volumes about our team’s strength and character.
“Winning a Commonwealth silver medal is a personal and collective achievement that feels unbelievable, but we hope the future ramifications of the result will be the most gratifying aspect of the team’s success.
“In our final meeting together, Chema (Buceta) told us that ‘success comes with responsibility.’
“This is something that I wholeheartedly agree with.
“The real beauty in winning this silver medal is that it provides us with our biggest ever platform to inspire, motivate and enable the next generation to dream big and realise their ambitions.”