Chester hockey player Sian French is hoping to get the Royal seal of approval when she takes to the pitch for Wales at the Commonwealth Games later today.
The 22-year-old from Delamere will not only be playing in front of the watching millions on television against England, she will also have to cope with the pressure of playing in front of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
Former Chester Hockey Club player French is part of the Welsh squad that is aiming for glory in Glasgow, beginning with their group clash with England, a game which the Queen and the Duke will attend following their visit to the National Hockey Centre in the morning.
But French, a former pupil at Bishops’ Blue Coat High School, is relishing the chance to represent her country on the biggest stage of her career and is hoping to put in a good performance in front of her Royal audience.
“The Commonwealths’ is the biggest stage that I’ve ever played on and it’s great that the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh are going to be there,” said French.
“It’s a bit surreal really, it’s definitely going to add to the occasion and makes it even more special, if that’s even possible. But once I’m out there and playing, I won’t be thinking about anything other than trying to win the game.
“Hopefully we’ll get a good result and they’ll be impressed with what they see.”
French, who works in Crewe as a chartered physiotherapist within the NHS, first made her Wales debut against Scotland in 2011 and has gone on to establish herself in the national team.
After playing in front of large crowds at the Investec London Cup earlier this month, French is hoping to use that experience to her advantage in Glasgow.
“We played in the London Cup and there was a great atmosphere there and some good crowds turned up,” said French, whose Wales side will be looking to avenge an 8-0 defeat against England at the same competition.
“I know that the crowds in Glasgow are going to be amazing and it will be a massive buzz for us to play in front of so many people and it’s good for the sport that it will be getting some more exposure.”
French is hopeful that both she and her Wales team-mates will give a good account of themselves at the Games, but admits that they face a tough test.
“We’re ranked ninth out of the 10 nations there, so we’re not going into the Games with any real pressure on us,” she said.
“We have a tough task to get near the medals but if we start well and get some momentum, who knows.”
Another former Chester Hockey Club player will be in action in Glasgow, with Hoole’s Phil Roper part of the England squad who begin their quest for medal glory against Trinidad & Tobago later today.
Kelsall’s Sarah Kippax will be in squash action this week with her doubles partner Darren Selby.
Kippax, who went to Tarporley High School, is ranked number 18 in the world and will be competing in her second Commonwealth Games having been part of the England squad four years ago in Delhi.