AAustralia is a Commonwealth Games powerhouse. Since the first edition of the Games in 1930 – back when they were called the British Empire Games – the Australian delegation has topped the medal count 13 times. Australia lead the all-time medal count at the Games by more than 200 gold medals, with a total haul of 932 gold medals, compared to next best England with 714. Australia’s total is just shy of twice than Canada in third place.
That means history is in Australia’s favor when the latest edition, the 2022 Commonwealth Games, begins in Birmingham on Thursday. Recent form will also favor the Australian athletes – the nation had its best-ever Olympic medal haul less than a year ago, in Tokyo. Here are 10 athletes, teams and events to watch as Australia chases gold in the coming weeks.
Ariarne Titmus (swimming)
When the 21-year-old Tasmanian dethroned American swimming star Katie Ledecky at the Olympics – not once but twice (in the 200m and 400m freestyle) – there was a changing of the guard. Titmus proved there was no fluke earlier this year when she broke the 400m world record, and heads to Birmingham relaxed after opting to skip the world championships (where Ledecky reclaimed her 400m crown).
But even without Ledecky (the United States does not participate in the Games), she won’t have all of Titmus in the way. Canada’s Summer McIntosh was not far behind the duo in Tokyo and, at just 15, is quickly catching up. Titmus v McIntosh in Birmingham will be an interesting encounter before the three-way duel with Ledecky before the 2024 Olympics.
Peter Bol (athletics)
The middle-distance runner rose to prominence overnight at the Tokyo Olympics, captivating locked-out Australia with his 800m prowess and charismatic post-race interviews. Bol didn’t stop with a medal – he finished fourth in the final, having gone hard and led until the final 100m – but the Sudanese-born Australian was an instant household name.
Bol showed his form at the recent world championships in the United States, reaching the final in a competitive field, although he finished seventh. The competition will be slightly less intense in Birmingham; none of those who finish on the podium at the world championships are competing in the Commonwealth Games.
Ellie Cole (swimming)
Australia’s most decorated Paralympian with 17 Paralympic medals to her name, Cole could comfortably hang up her goggles after the Tokyo Games, where the 30-year-old collected two medals. But farewell to the Paralympics, Cole also wanted to say goodbye to the Commonwealth Games – so she trained in Birmingham and will formally retire after her single event at these Games, the S9 100m freestyle women.
Despite six Paralympic gold medals and three world titles to her name, Commonwealth Games gold has always eluded Cole – one silver and three bronze medals to draw attention. She won’t start as favourites, but if Cole can upset her rivals at Sandwell Aquatics Centre, it would be a swan song for the ages.
Nicola Olyslagers and Eleanor Patterson (athletics)
Barring a bit of bad luck, Australia is confident of taking gold in the women’s high jump. Nicola Olyslagers (née McDermott) won silver at the Tokyo Olympics, and her partner Eleanor Patterson claimed the world title last week. With the pair’s main competitors coming from non-Commonwealth countries, the women’s high jump in Birmingham is likely to result in an all-Australian gold battle. The duo currently share the Australian record at 2.02m. The record is set to be broken at the Games – by one (or both) of Australia’s high jumping sensations.
Team pursuit squad (track cycling)
History gives Australia a significant competitive advantage in the velodrome at the Commonwealth Games. Although Great Britain teams race together at the Olympics – where they are fierce rivals for Australia – at the Games they race individually: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland . The impact of this disaggregation is most felt in the team quest, where each race consists of teams of four (and, usually, a squad of six). The gold medal winning British women’s endurance squad at the 2016 Olympics, for example, consisted of two English riders, a Scot and a Welsh woman.
This partly explains the Australian women’s dominance at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, where they qualified five seconds faster than anyone else on their way to gold. They arrive in Birmingham as favorites – having finished second at the UCI Track Nations Cup earlier in the year, behind Italy. While the Australian squad is still in transition, after several retirements after Tokyo, Georgia Baker returns to the team from her road racing commitments and 23-year-old Maeve Plouffe continues to improve. Their male counterparts will also be aiming for gold – the defending Commonwealth Games champions will be hoping to forget their disappointing outing in Tokyo, which was marred by hand freaks.
For some sports, the Olympics are the pinnacle. For others, the ultimate achievement is considered a domestic or international event – the Tour de France in cycling, say, or the NBA finals in basketball. For netball, without a spot in the Olympics (although some are proposing inclusion at the 2032 Games in Brisbane), the true test will be the Commonwealth Games – not least because there are few non-Commonwealth nations competing at the level minority. In Birmingham, the Diamonds will be eager to avenge their loss to England in the gold medal game at home in 2018. But they face a tough field – the English are the favourites, while New Zealand and Jamaica will also provide stiff competition.
Emma McKeon, Mollie O’Callaghan, Shayna Jack (swimming)
The Dolphins are tipped to sweep the women’s 100m freestyle in Birmingham. Reigning Olympic champion Emma McKeon will be fresh off opting to miss out on the world titles in Budapest. Young gun Mollie O’Callaghan, just 18, beat McKeon to win the 100m at the world championships. Shayna Jack, back from her disputed doping suspension (part of the conviction was on appeal) is looking to make up for lost time; Jack looked fine in Budapest, collecting two relay medals, before injuring his hand before the individual events. If Canada’s 2016 Olympic champion Penny Oleksiak can’t pull away, the women’s 100m freestyle will be a battle between three Australians.
Table tennis team
The Australian table tennis squad arrives in Birmingham with many medal hopes, after impressive displays at last year’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Jian Fang Lay gained a cult following as she swept through the women’s draw in her sixth Olympics. The Chinese-born star, who turns 50 next year, first competed at the Commonwealth Games two decades ago, winning two silver medals and a bronze in Manchester in 2002. She placed three another with him in the Games in the meantime, but she has yet to win. title for the Commonwealth Games. 2022 may be her year.
In Tokyo, Lina Lei and Qian Yang ended Australia’s Paralympic table tennis gold medal drought – which stretched back nearly four decades – when they both won gold within an hour of each other. They will be leaders in their respective categories.
Women’s cricket team
Women’s cricket will make its Commonwealth Games debut in Birmingham with a T20 competition. The Australians have dominated the discipline, winning five of the past six World Cups, and are favorites to win the inaugural Games competition. Alyssa Healy is in red-hot form, hitting 170 to lead Australia to the 50-over world cup earlier this year while spinner Alana King is making headlines and evergreen spinner Ellyse Perry is still take effect. History is going for the Australians, without any unexpected collapse.
Madison de Rozario (athletics)
Madison de Rozario was among the stars of Australia’s Paralympic campaign in Tokyo, with two gold medals and a bronze medal – including a stunning victory in the wheelchair marathon. De Rozario then continued that form to win the 2021 New York City Marathon, becoming the first Australian woman to win the event in any discipline. The 28-year-old won the T54 marathon and 1,500m at the last Commonwealth Games on home soil and will be confident of defending her crown in Birmingham.