Montserrat's capital Plymouth was destroyed by the volcano ©Getty Images

Montserrat's Chef de Mission for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games has remembered rebuilding sport from scratch after the devastation of the island's volcanic blast, and has admitted it is still hard to produce athletes.

The Soufrière Hills volcano violently erupted in 1997, completely destroying the capital Plymouth and airport and forcing thousands to flee from their homes.

Nineteen people died and Montserrat's population plummeted from 11,000 to around 1,000 as most of those affected decided to leave for good.

Plymouth, and the southern part of Montserrat, has now been sealed off as an "exclusion zone" due to the continued risk of eruptions and access is restricted.

"We had to rebuild," said Montserrat's Chef de Mission Valerie Samuel, the vice-president of the local Commonwealth Games Association.

"We had to make a choice - either we leave, or we rebuild. 

"And we wanted to rebuild as we love our country, so some of us stayed and continued on."

Samuel is also President of the island's netball association and a vice-president for athletics.

Montserrat will be taking five male sprinters to Birmingham 2022 ©Getty Images
Montserrat will be taking five male sprinters to Birmingham 2022 ©Getty Images

 "There was a small group of us who wanted sport to continue, so we basically stepped into the roles," she said.

"When people see you doing something like that, and see you doing something good, they don't want to move."

The loss of people means developing athletes is difficult for Montserrat, which is taking a team of five - all male sprinters - to Birmingham 2022.

"We take athletes to a certain level and then, after a while, they decide to migrate to the UK," said Samuel.

"So you have to start all over again." 

Facilities are also a challenge with Montserrat's runners forced to practice on the beach or a grass track.

For the full interview with Samuel, click here.