Birmingham Commonwealth Games: Kiwi swimming legend Dame Sophie Pascoe shrugs off 'challenging' build up

To say Kiwi swimming great Dame Sophie Pascoe's build up to the Birmingham Commonwealth Games hasn't been ideal would be an understatement.

A testing month of July has seen Dame Sophie struck down by COVID-19 - forcing her to miss her investiture ceremony - then farewell her beloved Nana, who she counted as one of her biggest supporters.

Both events conspired to cost the 11-time Paralympic gold medallist valuable time in the pool, preventing her from attending a training camp with the swimming team to limit her build-up for her third Commonwealth Games bid.

"It's been a challenging preparation coming into this Games," Pascoe told Newshub.

"Unfortunately I got COVID-19 a couple weeks ago, which didn't see me bound for the Majorca pre-training camp for the rest of the team.

"Then unfortunately my Nana was ill and then passed away during that time as well, so my extension in New Zealand was made as long as possible to obviously be with family during that time."

Pascoe shows off her gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics last year.
Pascoe shows off her gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics last year. Photo credit: Photosport

But now in the UK and reunited with her team, Dame Sophie admitted she's been instantly rejuvenated and is raring to take to the pool and add to her four Commonwealth Games gold medals won at Glasgow 2014 and Gold Coast 2018.

"It's really nice to finally be with them and see one another because it feels a lot more real and exciting," she said.

"When you are in a pre-camp situation all your focus is on the Games, so now that the rest of the team are here that influences me and that excitement in the team is getting more real towards competing this Friday."

Dame Sophie said her COVID-19 symptoms were mild and that the more difficult part of testing positive was managing her reintegration to the training environment.

Having had a chance to put her stroke to the test upon arrival at Birmingham, Dame Sophie is confident she's firing on all cylinders.

"I had my first swim a couple of days ago in the training pool here in Birmingham and I feel like we have been able to come back from that," she noted.

"I'm unsure what that's going to look like in terms of racing but, at the end of the day, I can only give my best."

These Games will have a much different feel for Dame Sophie, who will only compete in the 100m freestyle event. At the Tokyo Paralympics, she was entered in a total of five.

Pascoe said being able to concentrate on a single event has been hugely beneficial, and once her Games has been completed on the opening day of competition, she's looking forward to being able to turn her attention to supporting what she's deemed one of the best Commonwealth Games swim squads she's seen.

"I'm going to be done and dusted on the first day, so my full support will then be with the team for those next few days of racing, which is also exciting," she said. "I can give my absolute 100 percent attention to the rest of the team from a usual heavy schedule that I take on board.

"They're in really great form. I've been watching them in the pool over the past couple of days.

"At the end of the day, it's the team culture that we've created that's going to allow us to push one another to give our absolute best.

"That's all we can do as athletes but I feel like we're going to have a really successful team."