From the moment the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games kicked off on Sunday 8 April with the Race Walks, through the spectacular performances at Carrara Stadium, to the final event, the men’s Marathon on the Sunday 15 April, athletics fans were treated to a feast of superb results. With personal records galore and too many magical moments to name, here’s a highlight from each of the eight days of a magical home Games.
Walking on a Dream - Sunday 8 April
Queenslander Dane Bird-Smith gave Australians a dream start and their first taste of what was to come with a gutsy win in the 20km race walk of the first day of the Games. It was a new Games record of 1:19:34 that shattered Nathan Deakes 2006 standard by 21 seconds and set the scene for a marvellous eight days of action.
Situated on the picturesque Currumbin Beachfront, it was our initial glimpse of a boisterous local crowd that in many ways defined the Games, with their support of the Australians and indeed all the athletes of the Commonwealth.
Bird-Smith declared it was “an amazing race. I can't thank the crowd enough."
Dubler’s Diehard Effort - Monday 9 April
Cedric Dubler, another Queenslander, kept the local crowd enthused throughout the two days of the ten-eventer but it was his performance in the 400m that was to become a signature of the Australian team’s never-say-die attitude.
Frustrated by a best jump of 2.01m, well down on his season’s best of 2.10m, the decathlete directed his energy into the 400m with a gallant sprint down the homestretch. He left everything on the track and was physically ill from the intensity of the 48.39 performance, just two tenths outside of his personal best.
“That's the decathlon for you and that's the challenge we all take on. I had a poor performance in the high jump and I had to make it up in the 400m.”
Fearnley’s Fairplay - Tuesday 10 April
For many, Fearnley’s greatest triumph would come on the final day of the Games with an outstanding win in his final marathon in the green and gold. But it was his comments after the men’s T54 1500m where he finished with silver that showed what a true champion the five-time Paralympian is. Despite an intense week of racing he still had the long-term future of para-sport and integration close to mind.
“The success of this para-sports program has been amazing. It’s just been off the roof the support we’ve been given at home and in the crowd.”
“But let’s have this same conversation about what is happening here, at home about our education facilities, about our transport, about employment.”
“Inclusion’s working. We’re nailing it. The crowd is loving it. But the guys that don’t have the stage, they don't have the opportunity.”
“Let’s have this conversation on a greater level. Tomorrow morning have that yarn wherever you are.”
Mitchell’s Moment - Wednesday 11 April
If there was a measure of resilience and how many setbacks and how much heartbreak you can cope with, then Kathryn Mitchell is a world champion. After finishing sixth, fifth and fourth at successive Commonwealth Games she won her first major Games medal at the age of 35 years with a monumental win in the javelin with a new Oceania and Australian record.
Time and time again, since her debut at the 2006 Melbourne Games, Mitchell has come back from injury or disappointment. Her self-belief that the performances she thought should have happened in her twenties, would still come in her thirties provided the resolve to stick with it. And her results have been incredible. The last time someone else threw the javelin as far was more than five years ago.
“I have always known I had these distances in me. It’s been a little less about chasing and just to let it happen. I said to myself, if I do what I am supposed to do, it will come, at some throw, at some time and it has”.
Believe in Yourself - Thursday 12 April
Kurtis Marschall appeared to be floating on air in one photo of his memorable victory in the pole vault at the Games but for many his words afterwards will hang like a beacon of how to approach competition. The young South Australian’s winning leap was a clutch jump at 5.70m which he cleared on the third attempt and in the process defeated Canadian Shawnacy Barber, who won the 2015 world title in Beijing.
Marschall’s self-belief was one of the deciding factors as despite entering the competition against more seasoned rivals he kept his cool and delivered when it counted. It’s something that perhaps every young athlete should write on their wall and remember when self-doubt creeps in. That if you’re in it, you’ve always got a chance.
“No matter who is in the competition and what height it is, they have got a chance.”
“Even if they have one more jump left.
“I proved that to myself that even if I have one jump that I can soar over that bar. ”
Teamwork is No Hurdle - Friday 13 April
The start list for the final of the women’s 100m hurdles was certainly not one easily predicted a few weeks before the Games. Australians Brianna Beahan and Michelle Jenneke were there after strong showings in the heats, but the absence of Sally Pearson in the line up was still a talking point.
After withdrawing through injury, Pearson saw an opportunity to support and encourage team members as she stayed on in the village, paying testimony to her desire for Australian athletes and athletics to be at their best.
Beahan’s sixth place in the 100m hurdles emphasized that point as Pearson had guided and encouraged the 26-year-old Games’ debutant in the lead-up and throughout the Games. The West Australian paid tribute to the Olympic and world champion’s support “The fact she’s been out here and done what’s she’s done for me, no words can describe how grateful and thankful I am for what she’s done.”
Youthful optimism - Saturday 14 April
With an average age of 21 years, the Australian men’s sprinting corps are set to shine for many years to come. In the final of the 4x100m, they finished fourth behind Commonwealth sprinting powerhouses, South Africa, England and Jamaica and against men much superior in age. Their time of 38.58 was the second-best ever time by an Australian team at a Commonwealth Games.
The quartet shows great comraderie both on the track and off, regularly sharing banter on social media to set up a team atmosphere with the trust and mutual respect that a strong sprint relay team needs.
Rohan Browning summed up their place in the sprinting world as the team looks to the future "Fourth is hard to swallow but at the same time, fourth in the Commonwealth is good. The Commonwealth has some of the best sprinters going around.”
"This team is a long-term project and we're heading in the right direction. We're getting faster with every run."
Marathon Determination - Sunday 15 April
On the final day of the Games, the oldest female to represent Australia became the oldest to win a medal with Lisa Weightman, securing the silver with an impressive 2:33:23 in the hot and humid conditions. She was just 43-seconds behind Namibia’s Helalia Johannes.
At the relatively late age of 26 Weightman made her international debut and since then has gone from strength to strength representing Australia at two Olympics and here winning her second Commonwealth Games medal.
And she has no desire to give-up just yet. She ran her best ever marathon in London just last year with 2:25:15 and who would bet against a 43-year-old racing in Birmingham in 2022?
“One day running will retire me. Runners keep on running. Why make any retirement announcement? I am getting faster. I’m competitive. There's no reason to drop the green and gold anytime soon.” said Weightman.
Get Involved and Get Moving
If you’ve enjoyed the athletics at #GC2018, it doesn’t have to end now! Here’s how you can get involved, get moving and stay on track with Australian athletics:
Be inspired by the green and gold:
Time to get off the couch and get moving - take the dog for a walk, join in a parkrun, or set your sights on a bigger challenge like a marathon. Go on! You can do it.
Faster, higher, stronger at your local club:
Athletics is the purest of sports that everyone can do. Every week people of all ages and abilities line up to walk, run, jump and throw for their local club. Get involved now by contacting a club or your school
Join the conversation:
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