With the big shoes of Danny Boyle’s London 2012 Opening Ceremony to fill, Glasgow manfully and enthusiastically opened this years Commonwealth Games with aplomb. A bold and tongue-in-cheek affair – tartan flowed as far the eye could see and Scottie dogs led out each national team (many somewhat reluctantly, with several teams resorting to carrying their amusingly stubborn mascots) – Scotland began the Games with knowingly tacky flair. Meanwhile, John Barrowman’s gay kiss was both a pleasing reminder of the UK’s progressive stance on gay rights and a strong statement to the participating nations, 42 of whom maintain laws prohibiting homosexuality.
The ceremony has since given way to a number of impressive sporting feats. Among the highlights of the Games so far, the large individual medal haul of Wales’ Francesca Jones has proven a particular standout. The 23 year old rhythmic gymnast, representing her country for her third and final Commonwealth Games, completed her last event at the Games with a gold medal, adding to her already impressive 5 silver medals. Though she was made to sweat following an appeal from third placed Canadian Patricia Bezzoubenko, she topped the podium with a score of 14.500, 0.250 higher than Malaysian silver medallist Wong Poh San and 0.700 higher than Bezzoubenko to achieve a finish made even more impressive by her recovery from hip surgery to ameliorate a long-standing injury. Still just 23, Jones was questioned whether her successes had convinced her to prolong her career. Her answer was that she remained happy to retire, though she looked forward to remaining involved in coaching and to seeing the predicted future success of her young compatriot and fellow medallist Laura Halford.
While Jones is keen to retire from competing, England’s pistol shooting chances were greatly improved by the decision of 60 year old Michael Gault to come out of retirement. Returning to the sport with 17 medal wins, an 18th podium finish for Gault would equal the record for most Commonwealth medals, currently held by fellow shooter Phillip Adams, and Gault duly delivered with bronze in the 10m air pistol event. With the 50m event still to come Gault could yet clinch the record outright with what he assures will be his last Commonwealth Games outing.
Gault’s efforts, should he reach the podium in the 50m, will put him in good company among fellow English record breakers. First was swimmer Adam Peaty, who has broken two breaststroke records on the way to one gold medal in the 100m and a place in the 50m final. Peaty, at just 19 years of age, trailed London 2012 gold medallist and world record holder Cameron van der Burgh by a full second at the turn of the 100m final, digging deep to overcome a strong performance by the South African, take first place, and become the first Briton ever to post a time below 59 seconds. The next morning the talented pair lined up together for the second time in 24 hours in the fourth heat of the 50m. Peaty, perhaps spurred on by the push of his rival, again emerged victorious and posted a second Commonwealth record of exactly 27 seconds. Alongside Peaty, Joanna Rowsell maintained her winning ways with a record-breaking time on the way to gold in the 3000m individual pursuit. The cyclist, Olympic champion in team pursuit at London 2012, overcame talented New Zealander Lauren Ellis in the semi-finals with a Games record of 3 minutes 29.038 seconds, before comprehensively outmatching fellow finalist Annette Edmondson of Australia by a full 3.835 seconds to take gold in Glasgow’s Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome.
Glasgow has been home to an enormous showcase of sporting achievements, with both England and hosts Scotland in with a strong chance of finishing high up the medals table. The success of the home nations is testament both to the prowess of the competitors and the success of steps taken following London 2012 to ensure the longevity of British sporting accomplishment. With efforts being made to continue on this path, the future of British sports appears to be a promising one.
How can British sportsmen and women utilise and build on the successes of the Commonwealth Games?