Games stars and their medals

Golden glow of Games pro­pels our ath­letes Six months af­ter the Gold Coast Com­mon­wealth Games, we catch up with six Queens­land medal­lists who did us proud. Greg Stolz, Paul Mal­one and Fiona Pur­don re­port

The Courier-Mail - - NEWS -

MICHAEL SHELLEY Marathon: Gold

HE en­dured a tor­rent of abuse from on­line trolls af­ter his con­tro­ver­sial gold medal win in the Gold Coast Com­mon­wealth Games marathon. But Michael Shelley (top right) says he has “moved on” and is proud of his tri­umph in front of his home crowd. Shelley was left dev­as­tated by an out­burst of so­cial me­dia vit­riol af­ter he ran straight past Scot­tish ri­val Cal­lum Hawkins who had col­lapsed sick­en­ingly on the road about 2km from the fin­ish line. While ad­mit­ting the con­tro­versy had tar­nished his Games ex­pe­ri­ence, Shelley said he still had fond mem­o­ries of the event. “It was quite spe­cial to be part of a home Com­mon­wealth Games and to have fam­ily, in­clud­ing my grand­mother, there to watch me race,” he said. “It (the con­tro­versy) hap­pened and I can’t do any­thing to change it. Cal­lum and I have both moved on and are fo­cused on our next goals.” For Shelley, that’s Tokyo 2020 in what will be his third suc­ces­sive Olympics if he can qual­ify. He has not run a marathon since the Com­mon­wealth Games but has just re­turned from the UK where he com­peted in two half-marathons. Shelley, who turns 35 next week, said he would sit down soon with his coach to map out a plan for next year to try to qual­ify for Tokyo. “Be­com­ing a three-time Olympian is def­i­nitely a big mo­ti­va­tion for me, as well as try­ing to break 2hrs 11m,” he said. “I’ve run 2:11 five times and I def­i­nitely want to run faster.”

EMMA MCKEON Swim­ming: 4 gold, 2 bronze

FOR Emma McKeon, the Gold Coast Com­mon­wealth Games were very much a fam­ily af­fair. McKeon (above) and older brother David both swam for Aus­tralia at the Games with a vo­cal cheer squad of fam­ily and friends will­ing the sib­lings on from the stands at the Gold Coast Aquatic Cen­tre.

Many, in­clud­ing par­ents Ron and Susie, came up from the McKeons’ home town of Wol­lon­gong for the Games.

“It was cool hav­ing all my fam­ily there. It’s pretty rare to have such a big meet like the Comm Games on home soil,” she said. McKeon, who bagged four gold medals and two bronze at the Games, repli­cat-

ed the ef­fort at the Pan Pa­cific Cham­pi­onships in Tokyo in Au­gust. Af­ter a three-week break at home in Wol­lon­gong, she re­cently re­turned to the pool at Grif­fith Uni­ver­sity Gold Coast to pre­pare for her next chal­lenge, the Aus­tralian short course cham­pi­onships in Mel­bourne.

She said it felt sur­real driv­ing past the empty Games vil­lage next to the uni­ver­sity each day. “It’s kind of a weird feel- ing,” she said. “Ev­ery­thing was packed up re­ally quickly and there’s al­most no ev­i­dence the Games hap­pened.”

DANE BIRD-SMITH 20km walk: Gold

QUEENS­LAND’S cham­pion Games walker has de­tected a dif­fer­ence in his pub­lic pro­file when he trains along the banks of the Bris­bane River.

“My main train­ing course is along Corona­tion Drive and that is where I have ex­pe­ri­enced the most in­cred­i­ble changes since the Games,’’ Olympic bronze medal­list Bird-Smith (in­set right) said.

“Race walk­ing has never had a huge fol­low­ing, fa­mous for keep­ing Kath and Kel’s glutes in ‘ foxy’ shape (in the

Kath and Kim TV se­ries) and in­fa­mous for the dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion of Jane Sav­ille at the Syd­ney Olympics.

“But pub­lic sup­port has never been stronger with of­fice com­muters and school kids among those cheer­ing out, ‘go Bird­man’,” he said.

“The Com­mon­wealth Games on the Gold Coast was some­thing in­cred­i­bly dif­fer­ent. Ev­ery mo­ment of it was shared so closely with friends, fam­ily and even com­plete strangers.’’

Bird-Smith com­peted in China late last month, plac­ing fifth in one race, and is aim­ing for medals at next year’s world ti­tles and then the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “Pre­par­ing for the world champs and Tokyo will re­quire long stints over­seas at al­ti­tude venues and a se­ries of races de­signed to put me in peak form for that one day,’’ he said. “Be­ing in­volved with the course prepa­ra­tion at Cur­rumbin, I was so proud to see the huge turnout for the event and have such amaz­ing com­pli­ments for the course and the race it­self.’’

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