Claire Bennett Team GB Fencer writes for Balance on the challenge of aiming for Olympic glory and the shear magic of the event.

Can you believe that the countdown is almost over? It seems like we have been building up to this moment for so long. Finally, the Olympics have come to town and the eyes of the world are upon us.

I am certain that London will put on a great show. We are ready to show everyone what we are made of and this is an exciting period to live through. I wonder what spine-tingling, historic moments will come out of these Olympic games? All of the sports adverts and sporting documentaries that have been televised in the build up to the Games have been fantastic. They have managed to capture the real essence of what it’s like to be an elite level athlete at the top of their game. We’ve seen the relentlessness of training and competition, the raw passion, and the sheer grit and determination required to qualify for an Olympic Games. The expression blood, sweat and tears is no joke. Athletes have to be strong in every sense of the word.

The Olympic Games are the pinnacle of any athlete’s career and while the members of Team GB will be focused on performing to their best and reaching the podium, I hope that they will take a moment to savour the occasion. It is a once in a lifetime achievement and competing in front of a home crowd will be very special.

I have been thinking quite a lot recently too about the ‘other’ athletes who did not make the team for whatever reason. There must be hundreds of British athletes who, like me, were on the tip of qualification and missed out on the honour of going to a home Olympic Games.

Many people have asked me if I am excited about the Olympics and if I will be watching the fencing. The answer is yes, but I’d be lying if I said that it hasn’t been tough. Fencing and qualifying for the Olympic Games has literally been the centre of my existence since leaving university four years ago. The intensive training, travelling and competing had taken over my existence, almost to the exclusion of everything else, which most people would consider to be a normal part of life. So the thought of watching the Games without being involved in them, is hard. There’s no doubt about that.

I have had some time now to reflect on missing out on the Team and what has kept me going is the knowledge that this experience has toughened me and ultimately, has made me a stronger person. I stood for something I believed in and pushed my body and mind to the limit in order to achieve my goal.

Sometimes you have to accept defeat, but it is how you react to that and move on from that which defines you as a person. Disappointment can allow you to reassess your priorities and your goals. It strengthens your character.

So while I’ll be cheering on our Great Britain Olympic team this summer, I’ll also be sparing a thought for all those ‘other’ athletes who nearly made it. Let’s enjoy it. We deserve it.

I am proud to be the official Fencing expert for the Guardian over the Olympic Games. Watch out for my fencing and Olympic related tweets on @CBennettGBR. I’ll also be commentating on Eurosport this Sunday 29th July.

Claire worked with the Balance team throughout  her preparation for the games. We are all very proud of her and what she strived to achieve .  It was a pleasure for all the team to be a part of her journey.

Thanks Claire 

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