It has been over three weeks since the closing ceremony for the 2022 Commonwealth Games took place in Birmingham England, and there have been two things that have stuck with me as I reflect on the entire event.
First, is the fact that there seemed to be no promotion or hyping up of the event from news tabloids or social media. The first I saw of the Commonwealth Games, was when I opened TikTok and saw the winning shot by the Australian 3×3 Wheelchair Basketball team against England in the semi-final and I realised, “Oh yeah, the Commonwealth Games are on”. To make sure that I wasn’t the only one out of the loop, I asked ten of my friends who watch sports if they knew the Games were on. Out of the ten, only one knew before the starting date. Although, understandably, the Commonwealth Games aren’t as high profile as the Olympic Games because only countries that are still part of the British Commonwealth compete. It is still, however, an important showcase for the athletes leading up to such games.
This leads to my second item of reflection; Australia killed it in Birmingham. With a tally of 67 gold, 57 silver and 54 bronze medals, Australia topped the medal tally for the second consecutive time, beating our England hosts for that top spot. This is an amazing achievement from the entire Commonwealth Games squad, which I feel should be given more limelight. Though I can’t talk about every single medal, I will bring light to some of these stories and how they added up to this achievement for our country.
Ariarne Titmus – The New Queen of the Water
What hasn’t already been said about Titmus? She came into Birmingham as the reigning Olympic 200m and 400m freestyle champion, as well as the Commonwealth champion in the 400m, 800m and 4x200m freestyle. Titmus had a clean sweep as she won gold in all 4 freestyle events and set the world record in the 4x200m freestyle relay alongside Madison Wilson, Kiah Melverton and Mollie O’Callaghan. At 7 minutes 38.29 seconds, the team shaved 1.04 seconds off the old record which was set by China. Though only 21, she is truly laying the foundation for the future of Australian swimming and has thrown down the gauntlet for her competitors for the Olympic Games in Paris, 2024.
Men’s 3×3 Wheelchair Basketball Team (Lachlin Dalton, Kurt Thompson, Jake Kavanagh, Luke People) – The Heartbreakers
As mentioned earlier, this was my first bit of Commonwealth Games footage that I saw, and boy was it worth it. After a three-way tie in their group following a win against Canada and a loss to Northern Ireland, Australia would take on England in the Semi-Final. With the English team scoring at the death to make it 11-10, Lachlin Dalton scrambled to the arc to shoot a Hail Mary and win the game as it landed right on the buzzer. The call made from one English commentator uttering, “Dalton gets it, he has broken English hearts!” The Aussie team would continue this form as they headed to the final to play Canada for the second time, but the result remained the same, with Australia winning 11-9 and claiming gold.
Ollie Hoale – The Photo Finish
Australian Sporting folklore will always remember the last gasp win from Steven Bradbury from Salt Lake City 2004, where the three other skaters all crashed leaving Bradbury to easily slide into the record books to claim Australia’s first Winter Olympic gold. Though the ending of the men’s 1500m track final didn’t have as much of a demolition derby ending, an unexpected Australian winner still emerged. Ollie Hoale was sitting in the middle of the pack for the majority of the race, when he headed to the outside lanes and passed World Champion, Scotsman Jake Wightman, and Kenya’s Timothy Cheruiyot, causing an almost photo finish. Hoale became the first Australian to win the event since Herb Elliott in 1958.
Peter Bol – The Rise from Adversity
To me, the most inspirational story from all of the Commonwealth Games has to be from Peter Bol. After fleeing to Toowoomba from a civil war in Sudan, Bol moved to Perth, attending St Norbert College with a basketball scholarship and, at 16 years old, he started 800m track running and never looked back. At the Tokyo Olympics, he would finish first in his semi-final, only to finish fourth in the final, missing out on a medal by 0.53 seconds. His success at the event brought the nation’s hearts to his side, hoping for his success to arrive soon. He entered Birmingham and qualified for the 800m finals – this time getting himself onto the podium in second place, only being bested by Kenya’s Wycliffe Kenyamel. Though the others in this article got the gold, I feel that the context and the story behind Peter Bol’s career is something that is worth more than gold and deserves recognition.
In conclusion, there are many positives to take away from Birmingham and the success that has been created, and will be created, by our athletes. As Paris 2024 looms, Australia will be ready.