Nick Matthew column: Commonwealths have crept up like a Bolt from the blue

Jamaica's Usain Bolt.
Jamaica's Usain Bolt.
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A perfect summer lies ahead for sporting geeks, with the World Cup, Tour de France, Wimbledon and The Open all looming on the horizon.

But my personal highlight will be the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, which begin on Wednesday, July 23. It is the biggest competition in our sport in the absence of the Olympic Games.

I have twice played in the Commonwealths. I made my debut in Melbourne in 2006. It was brilliant rubbing shoulders with athletes such as Usain Bolt, Chris Hoy and Ian Thorpe in the village and seeing Jessica Ennis-Hill win her bronze medal. Bolt was not as big as he is now. I do remember sometimes feeling a little bit like a tourist.

I came fourth in Australia. It is the worst possible place to finish but it was inspiring to watch Peter Nicol win the gold medal. That made me really determined to follow in his footsteps four years later in Delhi.

In 2010, I travelled to India as a seasoned competitor and felt like I belonged with that company. It was great to win gold in the men’s singles and then doubles with my England teammate, Adrian Grant.

I remember standing on the podium listening to ‘Jerusalem’ and that, along with my wedding day, was probably the proudest moment of my life. It was pretty special.

It will really hit home how close the Commonwealths are to starting when I take part in the Queen’s Baton Relay in my home town on Sunday.

The opening leg of the relay begins at St Nicholas’ Church, High Bradfield, before heading to the village green in Low Bradfield. The final stop for the baton will be the English Institute of Sport, which has played a huge part in my career, at around 2.30pm. It will be a great opportunity for people to see some of the fantastic sporting activity in Sheffield.

It means so much to me to be involved in the relay and hopefully the public will really get behind the Commonwealths. I have great links with the city and take great pride in travelling around the globe and telling people that I am full of Sheffield steel. Some people think it is cheese but I love it! Wherever I am competing, I always check the Sheffield Wednesday scoreline every Saturday afternoon!

I know after the relay that I will have to get my head out of the clouds, keep my feet on the ground and get back to business.