An interview with Eboni Beckford-Chambers: Bristol law graduate and Commonwealth Gold medalist

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Nicky Withers spoke to England netball player, Eboni Beckford-Chambers, about her time at Bristol, her Commonwealth games experience and the England team's plan for the future.

History was made on the Australian Gold Coast as the England netball team powered their way to a historic first Commonwealth Games gold medal. The Roses started the tournament strongly, demonstrating strength and composure to go unbeaten in the preliminary rounds, comfortably beating world number two New Zealand 54-45.

Full of confidence, the Roses progressed to the semi-final where they took on a very strong Jamaica side who claimed bronze in the 2014 Commonwealth Games. It was a very difficult match and nerve-wracking for those on the sidelines as England trailed for the majority of the game. The final quarter saw both sides leave everything had on the court, with the Roses overturning the four goal deficit to make it 54-54 with only a minute and a half to go. The pace of play stayed high and Harten held her nerve for England to sink the winning shot to make it 56-55 and claim their place in the final.

Facing Australia on their home soil was never going to be easy, the world number ones were living up to the expectation of a home crowd and beat New Zealand with their biggest ever Commonwealth victory over their rivals. The match was exhilarating, end to end netball of the highest quality and an incredible advertisement for the sport, but more importantly it showed England meant business and Australia looked under serious pressure for the first time in the tournament.

Each player left everything on the court, with standout performances from goal keeper Geva Mentor, goal defence Eboni Beckford-Chambers and the feisty center Serena Guthrie. As time ran out in the nail-biting final quarter both Wood and Harten missed shots for Australia and England respectively, unusually feeling the pressure of the game. In the dying seconds Housby converted a penalty to make it 52-51 to the Roses and claim a historic first gold medal for England.

I caught up with Bristol alumna and England legend Eboni Beckford-Chambers after the Games

NW: What was your experience like in the performance squad at the University of Bristol?

EBC: I have very fond memories of my time at Bristol University. It was an honour to be a part of the High Performance Squad and I am eternally grateful for the support that they provided. It allowed me to continue my academic studies but to also remain competing at the highest level. The high Performance Programme ably assisted me in achieving balance and ensuring that I was able to fulfil my potential and excel in both arenas.

NW: How did you balance your degree and playing such high level netball?

EBC: Lack of sleep! I have to admit that it was extremely challenging. It was definitely during my time at University where I learnt the true meaning of being resilient, organised and an efficient time manager. I absolutely loved reading law at Bristol and I am incredibly passionate about netball – I think that when you love and enjoy something, you become very much solution focussed to ensure that you make it work.

NW: What was your favourite thing about living in Bristol?

EBC: Bristol has a very special place in my heart. I ended up staying an extra year to complete my Masters as I fell in love with the city. I love its diversity and the fact that it has a wealth of multicultural communities.

NW: What were the expectations going into the tournament?

EBC: We had high expectations heading into the Commonwealth Games given our recent success at the January Quad Series where we placed second. An England team had never made the final at a major Championship, so this was the initial goal for the team and the basis upon which we would begin to measure our success.

NW: What was the training schedule like?

EBC: The training schedule was pretty gruelling at first! We had a preparation camp in Sydney for two weeks where Tracey [the England coach] put us through our paces. We played a mixture of Australia based netball teams to assist with building combinations and confidence. We also completed a number of β€˜Blow Out’ sessions. As the name suggests, these sessions were extremely physically, emotionally and mentally challenging. However, it is this that I believed prepared us for the championship itself. We had already done the hard work, it was about enjoying the journey and sticking to the game plan and processes game by game.

NW: It was nerve-wracking watching the game, were you aware how tight the scoreline was in the final quarter?

EBC: My nerves were all over the place. Yes, I was aware how tight the scoreline was going into the last quarter. However, I could sense that Australia were nervous too. We are so used to Australia transitioning the ball from one end of the court to the other in as little as four to five passes. During this game, we had slowed them down significantly whereby it was taking them eight to nine passes to score one goal. It was the early application of pressure that I believe swung in our favour towards the end of the game. The team knew in the last quarter that we had the resolve to push on. it was now or never! The relief when Helen sunk that last goal was unfathomable.

NW: How did to feel to take gold?

EBC: The feeling is truly indescribable. It was just pure joy to know that all your hard work from over the years has finally been rewarded with a gold medal. The medal was not only for me but my mum, family and support team - a true recognition of all of their hard work too.

NW: Where do the Roses go from here?

EBC: The world cup is in 2019 in Liverpool. That is the next major Championship in the 4 year cycle. Hopefully we will be able to secure the double.

If you’ve been inspired to give netball a go, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved, from social netball to established leagues. Head to the England Netball website and use their session finder tool to discover ways to play near you!

Featured image: Twitter / @traceynev


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