Kenilworth's Sarah-Jane Perry aims for gold and to inspire next generation at Birmingham 2022
By James Smith
10th Jun 2022 | Squash
Squash star Sarah-Jane Perry is hoping to inspire the next generation to focus on how they play, rather than how they look, as she goes for gold at this summer's Commonwealth Games.
Kenilworth star Perry, who won silver at the 2018 Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast, said she is determined to make a difference after struggling with her own body image earlier in her career.
The 32-year-old said that one of squash's strengths is its diversity and has called for an acceptance of all body types at the elite level of sport.
"I assumed that I wasn't going to be able to be a world class athlete," said Perry.
"I felt that because, particularly when I was a teenager, I didn't look a certain way, I didn't look how people expected a world class athlete to look like and that rubbed off on me.
"It took a while for me to realise, with the help of a lot of good people around me who encouraged and believed in me, to even think that being a professional squash player was an option for me.
"That is something that I'm quite passionate about changing and making people see more about performance than what somebody looks like.
"It's a lot easier said than done, there's a lot of pressure from social media on young people, especially young women.
"That's been a journey for me and all I can hope is that athletes in the future really move forward and pride themselves on their performance rather than their image."
And speaking ahead of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games where she hunts medals in both the singles and doubles, Perry hopes sharing her story will give others motivation to get involved in sport and turn their dreams into reality.
Going for Gold
The Warwickshire-based athlete lost to New Zealand's Joelle King in 2018's women's singles final, but feels she is better off for her experiences four years ago and is boosted by recent form with the Games just two months away.
"Having won silver last time you've got to aim at gold this time, it's as simple as that," she added.
"Everything has been positive recently, I've had my best performances of the year in the last few months.
"Last week in the World Championships, I really pushed the eventual winner and played some great squash so that's really encouraging and confidence-boosting, that's fantastic moving forward.
"You've just got to keep building on that and preparing as best as possible. I'm happy with the way I've been playing and hopefully that continues.
"You can prepare as well as possible with visualising moments but nothing is ever actually going to quite be the same.
"Having been at a Games, having been in those pressure matches, the medal matches that's only going to bode well for this time.
"It's not going to be a new situation; I'll have been there before and draw on those experiences."
This summer, Team England, supported by National Lottery funding, will comprise of over 400 athletes in total, and having secured her place on the squad, Perry is looking to capitalise on the once in a lifetime opportunity for medal success in her home country.
And that's the case even more for Birmingham-born Perry, who is hoping to garner the Games' power after first picking up a racket at Four Oaks club a few miles away in Sutton Coldfield.
"It's having that joker in your back pocket, you can push that little bit extra because they're going to help you get over the line if you need that energy boost," said Perry.
"They're going to be that extra little element that you're not able to access when it's not a home games: that's awesome and it's going to be great to have so many friends and family there."
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(Header image by Mitch Zlotnik via wikimedia.commons)