When Minna Atherton was packing for Birmingham, her main priority was ensuring a small toy lizard filled with sand was safely tucked inside her luggage.
Named ‘Sparkles’ the lizard was given to her by a family friend who taught her to ski.
“We always had a toy lizard that we used to carry around with us on the slopes. So now I take that with me on all my adventures,” Atherton said with a laugh.
“It’s quite old, it has a few holes so it’s in a plastic bag.”
Atherton will open her Commonwealth Games campaign on Monday August 1, competing in 200m backstroke.
A pass mark for the 22-year-old in Birmingham would be to swim faster than she did at trials.
“I am super stoked to be on the team, I didn’t swim my best time leading into the Commonwealth Games. A personal best would be nice. I haven’t had the best few years so I’m glad to just be on the team.”
Minna started making serious waves in swimming in 2019 when she broke the short course world record in 100m backstroke held by three-time Olympic champion, Hungarian Katinka Hosszu.
Atherton was then considered a medal contender for the Tokyo Olympics, but heartbreakingly failed to qualify.
When asked if she had thoughts of wanting to quit Atherton replied: “Plenty.”
“A lot of the time last year and probably the year before as well I was thinking I don’t know if this is for me. But I just kept on going and here I am.”
She said her mindset has dramatically improved under Bond’s head swimming coach Chris Mooney.
“He’s been amazing we’ve been working on my enjoyment of the sport after Covid and a few other things interrupted my motivation. We have been working on those things and just wanting to be here and wanting to perform.”
It also helps she no longer has the stress of assignments and exams hanging over her. The recipient of the Hancock Prospecting Swimming Excellence Scholarship graduated from the University with a Biomedical Science degree in June.
“I have been working on my degree since 2018 so it’s been a long time coming. I’m really happy I’m done because now I can go away and travel without the academic pressure that I had in the past.”
Her Brisbane-based parents will be in Birmingham to cheer her on.