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To be honest, the Commonwealth Games are not a sporting event I have ever taken much interest in before.
But I know myself (and my fascination with sport). The moment I turn on Channel Seven and am given an opportunity to watch sport, I know it’s an opportunity I’ll take with both hands. This is also the first time in history that equal medals have been on offer for men and women.
This is the largest integrated Commonwealth Games sports program with 18 sports and seven para sports on show over the next fortnight.
Here are some of the sports and athletes I think you should keep an eye on.
The Australian Diamonds are one of my favourite Australian sporting teams so I am looking forward to them competing in the Games.
Fan favourite Sharni Layton may not have been selected in the squad due to taking some time to come back from a mental health injury, but the Diamonds have another exceptional comeback story to share in Susan Pettitt.
Susan has represented Australia in internationally since 2006. She competed at the Commonwealth Games in 2006 and 2010 where the team won silver medals. But she was overlooked for a third consecutive Games in Glasgow in 2014 where the Diamonds won gold.
It’s been quite a remarkable comeback story. When Susan was selected for last year’s tour of South Africa, this was her first call up at an international level for four years and this opportunity is one which I know she will take with both hands. She wants that gold medal.
Australia and New Zealand will go into the Games as favourites, but could also face some competition from England and South Africa. New netball fans (like me!) will also be familiar with plenty of players from England and New Zealand following their participation in the Suncorp Super Netball season last year.
The Diamonds played Northern Island yesterday and will play Barbados today, South Africa on April 8, Fiji on April 9 and Jamaica on April 11.
This is not a sport I follow closely, but Ashleigh Gentle is an athlete I have been keeping my eye on. Ashleigh is the only woman to beat the two-time world champion Flora Duffy in over 18 months. Flora is from Bermuda, and has dominated the sport since 2016. Since September 2016, Flora has won eight of the nine races she has completed. The only time she has been beaten is by Ashleigh, last year in Montreal.
Triathlon was the first event to take place yesterday and Flora became the first woman in history from Bermuda to win a Commonwealth Games gold medal. She completed the event in 56 minutes and 50 seconds which was well clear of the silver medallist from England, Jessica Learmonth (who finished 43 seconds behind) and Joanna Brown from Canada won the gold medal.
Despite being a medal hopeful, finished in fifth place in an exceptionally competitive field, with five athletes ranked in the top ten in the world.
Fun fact: The format for the women’s triathlon has changed. It is no longer the Olympic distance, but is now the sprint format with a 750 metre swim, 20 kilometre bike ride and five kilometre run.
Cate Campbell is feeling confident heading into the Commonwealth Games, so confident in fact that she has declared that she can’t see the Australian swimming team getting beaten at the Commonwealth Games.
To be fair, there’s good reason for this with the Dolphins being the dominant team in the pool for over three decades. At the last Commonwealth Games, Australia managed 57 medals including 19 gold. England was second in the medal tally followed by Canada.
However, could this be the point when Australia’s dominance in the pool ends? Australia only managed one gold medal at the 2017 World Titles in Budapest.
All eyes will be on Cate Campbell at the Games who will make her return to international swimming after taking a sabbatical following the 2016 Rio Olympics.
It has started positively for Cate who returned at the national selection trials in March where she broke the 50 metre butterfly and 50 metre freestyle Australian records and also won gold in the 100 metre freestyle.
An epic battle between her and Penny Oleksiak awaits.
Other gold medal hopefuls include Emily Seebohm, Emma McKeon, Ellie Cole and Lakeisha Patterson.
It wasn’t until recently that I learned that Australia is actually really good at lawn bowls, but it has been a while since the Australian team has won gold at the games – 12 years in fact.
I’ll be tuning in to see if Australia can end the drought.
It has started well with Karen Murphy (who is competing in her fifth Commonwealth Games) beating Malia Kioa from Tonga in the women’s singles by 21-4. Karen will be in action again today against Zambia’s Gertrude Siame.
I’ll also watch the Australian Opals with interest, who are the reigning champions. Interestingly this will be the Canadian women’s basketball team’s debut at the Commonwealth Games and that team, along with the English team pose major threats for the Opals.
The Opals will play Canada on Sunday 8 April with Australia currently seeded number one and Canada number two.
Track and field
I was also devastated to hear the news yesterday that Sally Pearson has withdrawn from the Games because of an Achilles injury. Sally has been training with some difficulty for the last two months and was hoping to compete. Unfortunately, the injury flared up again after Sally ran a relay leg in Brisbane last week.
Injury is something Sally has been battling with since she won the gold medal in the 100-metre hurdles event at Glasgow and I wish her well for a speedy recovery.