It was the second night after Christmas and I was at my local gym putting in a late-night work out as I often do, my phone started ringing, it was my Powerlifting Coach Simon Bergner.

As soon as I answered he asked, “Did I want a late Christmas present”. I legit had no idea what he was talking about as I wasn’t really thinking straight!

He said “Congratulations you’ve made the final cut for the Commonwealth Games team!”. I couldn’t believe it!

I had been waiting for that news for a while now, so to finally get the confirmation I just couldn’t wait to get home and tell my partner Ryan and my parents.

My partner and I have worked so hard for this. Outside my parents he is my biggest supporter and has made countless sacrifices for me to secure my place on the 2018 Commonwealth Games team.

My qualification is a milestone for the two of us, and we’re both one step closer to our ultimate goal of participating at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

I’ve been asked a lot in the past 24 hours, how does it feel to be returning to my biggest world games since the 2012 London Paralympics.

I suppose the biggest thing I’m feeling right now is relief. Sheer, relief!

Because so much goes in to just putting yourself in a position to be there.

I couldn’t tell you how many late nights I spent in that gym; so many times I just sat in there envisaging what it would be like to return to a major world stage like the Commonwealth Games.

A part of me was always worried I would soon forget what it was like to compete for Australia, as it had been a long time between drinks – thankfully that won’t be the case anytime soon.

It feels like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders (yep, pardon the pun!), knowing that now I can solely focus on the next four months, and really start to grind and build towards Gold Coast.

Because as some people still might not know, I won’t be participating in athletics as I did in London – I’ve transitioned into a whole different sport with para-powerlifting.

Why para-powerlifting? Well those who have followed my career know that after London, I had to give up sprinting as I sustained permanent damage in my ankle.

Even though I had to give up running, as I mentioned in my first column, I have always loved staying active – fitness is just part of my DNA!

So when it came time to doing my rehab, I quickly realised the only thing I could really do was lift weights with my upper body – so that’s exactly what I did.

Day after day, I started heading down to my local gym to spend time in the weights room, before I knew it I was setting myself mini challenges and personal bests to improve upon.

Eventually, when the time came to consider taking on a new sport it all just made sense, that was where my transition would be.

And I’m glad I did because had I not taken on para-powerlifting there is a good chance I wouldn’t even be heading to the Commonwealth Games – the organisers only allow for select events to be included in the para-format, and sprinting isn’t one of them!

So hindsight is a beautiful thing in many ways.

Most importantly for me though, is making sure I set honest expectations for myself.

I have never said publicly “Hey I am a para-powerlifter now” because the reality is I have only been competing in this sport for just over a year.

I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, as powerlifting really is such an up and down competition.

One week you can be lifting incredibly and the next it just doesn’t come together, so it’s vital to stay aware of your surroundings and mindset.

That really struck me when I headed over to Mexico for the World Para-Powerlifting Championships last month; despite what was a really strong preparation lead-in, I didn’t compete to the high standards I had set for myself.

But it’s important to keep going and know that each event is building towards my bigger goal of Tokyo.

Powerlifting takes a number of years to perfect, so at Gold Coast the challenge for me will really be to compare myself not to all the other athletes, but rather looking at my own performance and growth throughout these past 12 months.

Because I have worked hard for this comeback. Ryan and I both have.

Kelly Cartwright

Kelly Cartwright OAM is an Australian Paralympic gold medallist, representing her country at the 2008, 12 paralympic games.

Kelly was a finalist for the 2012 Australian Paralympian of the Year, and in 2014 was presented with an Order of Australia Medal for service to sport as a gold medallist at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.