In defence of the Comm Games
It’s seven weeks until the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, and the doom merchants are out in force.
Apparently the Comm Games are irrelevant and meaningless and no top athletes compete.
It’s not true, of course. The Commonwealth Games are like a mini- world championship in sevens rugby, netball and lawn bowls. In other sports, including cycling, hockey, triathlon, swimming, athletics and squash, the level is extremely high.
The rest - gymnastics, boxing, badminton, table tennis, weightlifting, wrestling, shooting and judo - offer particular opportunities for New Zealanders. Most of our competitors in those sports would not qualify for an Olympics, so the Commonwealth Games is perfect for them.
The Comm Games are enjoyable because they are a manageable size, there is a common language, and they don’t suffer from the massive hype of an Olympics.
Here’s hoping Glasgow can make it third time lucky for Scotland. The 1970 and 1986 Edinburgh games were marred by poor weather and in 1986 there was an African boycott, too.
Keep a particular eye on these New Zealanders:
Val Adams, shot put: Adams is as near a gold medal certainty as there is. That would make it three in a row for her.
Nick Willis, 1500m: Gold and bronze in his two previous Comm Games, Willis will be attempting to defy the sands of time one more time.
Tom Walsh and Jacko Gill, shot put: Our young shot putters have created a stir at home. Can they do so at the next level up?
Lauren Boyle, freestyle swimming: Three world championship medals last year. What next for Boyle?
Glenn Snyders, breaststroke swimming. The brilliant Snyders has been knocking on the door at major meets. This could be his time.
Sophie Pascoe, swimming. Having won three golds and three silvers at the 2012 London Paralympics, Pascoe looms as a star of the Glasgow games.
Sevens rugby: Can Gordon Tietjens’ team make it five golds in a row?
Netball: After golds in 2006 and 2010 (in golden goal overtime), the Silver Ferns are seeking to make it three wins in succession over arch-rivals Australia.
Jo Edwards and Val Smith, lawn bowls: A strong team of 15 has been selected, but watch for Jo Edwards in the singles and Val Smith and Edwards in the pairs. Memories of their world champs titles in Christchurch in 2008 are fresh.
Andrea Hewitt, triathlon. Hewitt is a class act and very experienced. Nothing is beyond her. Watch also for injury-plagued Kate McIlroy, who has made an impressive comeback.
Men’s sprint, cycling: Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins are world champions, but will be pushed hard by England and Australia. Our track cyclists won nine medals in Delhi.
Joelle King, squash. After her gold and silver at Delhi, King, now fourth in the world, is a strong medal prospect, though she has the incomparable Nicole David to contend with.
Women’s hockey. The Black Sticks were desperately close to a medal at the 2012 London Olympics. They’ve been hit by retirements and injury, but are so plucky a medal is not beyond them.
Mike Collings and John Snowden, fullbore rifle pair: The defending Commonwealth Games champions don’t get much publicity, but two in a row is a possibility.
Making a splash: Swimmer Lauren Boyle won three medals at the 2013 world champs. She’ll be hoping for even more success in Glasgow.