The XXth Commonwealth Games have concluded in Glasgow after eleven days of competition.
Thirty-five countries shared 1385 medals in 261 medal events. David Katoatau was one of the gold medal winners. He secured Kiribati’s first Commonwealth Games medal as the winner of the 105kg weightlifting competition.
Australia started and ended the Games with gold medals. Anna Meares won the Women’s 500m Time Trial in the first medal event in track cycling. David Palmer and Cameron Pilley won one of the last gold medals in the Men’s Double Squash.
England was the top placed team at the Games. It is the first time Australia has not been number one in gold medals won and total medals won since 1986 (in Edinburgh). The Australian team did win 137 medals (49 gold) in Glasgow compared to England’s 174 (58 gold) (). England had a very strong second week at the Games and overtook Australia with eighteen gold medal performances in gymnastics, diving and boxing.
Australia dominated in week one of the Games with outstanding performances in cycling and swimming. Emma McKeon won six medals in swimming (four gold and two bronze). She was a member of the Women’s 4x100m freestyle relay team that broke the world record on the first night of competition in the pool. This world record swim is a remarkable achievement. It broke a 2009 record set by swimmers wearing polyurethane suits.
Australia’s success in cycling and swimming extended to the Para sport events included in the Games. Two of the Para swimmers, Rowan Crothers and Maddi Elliott, set world records in winning their events. Maddi was Australia’s youngest swimmer at the London Paralympics in 2012.
Australia’s Athletics program at the Games started with a remarkable win for Mike Shelley in the Men’s Marathon and a very strong third place finish by Jess Trengrove in the Women’s Marathon. Thereafter seven female athletes won gold medals in track and field. In addition to the very public success of Sally Pearson and the drama surrounding her victory, Alana Boyd, Dani Samuels, Kim Mickle, Eleanor Patterson, Angie Ballard and Jodi Elkington became Commonwealth champions. Angie and Jodie won their medals in the Para classes.
Eleanor Patterson won the high jump in Glasgow. She is in her final year at school and is from the Gippsland town of Leongatha. Like many of the athletes in the Australian team, Eleanor has made long journeys to training with her family. The romance of the Games is that these journeys lead to remarkable places and performances. Another athlete from a rural community, Laura Geitz, captained the Australian netball team to the gold medal in netball.
The Glasgow Commonwealth Games set new standards of competition. A number of sports stepped up their performance to meet the challenge. Australian shooters secured six gold medals in Glasgow. Divers and gymnasts found the competition very strong and will aspire to do better in Brisbane in 2018.
The Games ended with three gold medals in team sports. The Australian women’s hockey captain, Madonna Blyth, scored the decisive shoot out goal to defeat England. Her fortitude under pressure would have been highly regarded in shoot outs in other sports. The men’s hockey team won convincingly against India. They have won every hockey gold medal since the sport entered the Games in 1998. The women’s netball team won their final against New Zealand to regain the gold medal after twelve years.
The last time the Games were held in Scotland in Edinburgh in 1986, the hosts finished sixth out of twenty-seven teams. This time Scotland has had a very good fourth place finish from seventy-one teams with 19 gold medals in a total of 53 medals.
The Games move to the Gold Coast in 2018. It will be interesting to see how Australia responds to hosting the Games. Glasgow has shown that there is a very important place for the Games in the sporting calendar particularly as a way of inducting young people into international competition. Glasgow’s success in encouraging volunteering is a beacon for the Gold Coast too.
The competitive nature of these Games has done a great deal to highlight the benefits of holding a quadrennial multi-games event. Most people understand that achievements in the Games must be kept in context. Within them there are world-class performances and achievements whilst at the same time they give nations with limited infrastructure and funding the opportunity to compete. There will be homecoming parties all over the Commonwealth, many of them will be in rural Australia. All of them will have lots in common with David Katoatau’s return to Kiribati.
Note: an edited version of this post appears in The Conversation.