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
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.’’