WIX international swimmer Laura Stephens says she is feeling confident heading into the Commonwealth Games.

And the talented butterfly competitor believes competing in front of a home crowd will lift the whole Team England team, as they go in search of success.

Stephens is preparing to take part in her second Commonwealth Games, having competed at Gold Coast 2018.

The 23-year-old former Colchester Swimming Club member, now based at Loughborough, is looking forward to the prospect of competing on home soil when the event gets underway in Birmingham, next week.

Stephens said: “It’s crazy thinking back to four years ago when I made my first senior international major team for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

“Thinking about how much I feel like I’ve grown over those four years, I’m really excited for these Games now.

“It being my second one, I feel like I’ve got so much more experience going into it and I’m really looking forward to it.

“I feel a lot more confident, this time around.

“The fact that we’re going to have the home crowd cheering us and supporting us is really going to lift the whole team.

“I think everyone is really excited to have the opportunity for more friends and family to be in the crowd and come and watch us.

“I’ve got my family coming along to watch me and hopefully I’ll be able to make them proud.”

Stephens finished fourth in her first outing for Team England as part of the 4x100m medley on the Gold Coast four years ago.

The former Colchester County High School for Girls pupil was part of the Great Britain quartet that won 4x100m medley gold at the 2021 European Aquatic Championships, setting a Championship record in the process.

Stephens made her Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020 and finished sixth in the 200m butterfly semi-final, just a second off a qualifying spot for the final.

She has warmed up for a home Commonwealth Games nicely, taking the 100m and 200m butterfly titles at the national championships in April.

Harwich and Manningtree Standard:

Full flow: Laura Stephens in action. Picture: BRITISH SWIMMING

This year has also seen Stephens relocate to Loughborough, having been based at Plymouth Leander for the past eight years.

She said: “It’s been a bit of a weird season, coming off the back of the Olympics.

“Everyone has been in the same boat in that respect.

“I’ve obviously been through a change of programme as well moving to Loughborough in January.

“It’s been a bit of a rocky road and it hasn’t been a completely smooth training cycle, leading into this competition.

“But I feel like I’ve taken everything into my stride and I’m feeling really happy with how training has been going.

“Everything is looking positive, ready for some fast swimming.

“I’m really enjoying it at Loughborough.

“After eight years down in Plymouth, it was a really tricky decision to leave.

“But I’m really glad that I made it and I’m getting along with my coach Dave Hemmings here really well and the whole group of athletes that we’ve got here.

“It’s a really great group and I’m really enjoying training here now.”

So what is Stephens' main target heading into the Commonwealth Games?

“My target is to just enjoy the racing," she added.

“I made the 200 butterfly final in Gold Coast 2018 and I think it’s about time this time I bring home a medal.

“That’s my goal for this Games."