Australia historically dominates the Commonwealth Games, but was knocked off top spot at Glasgow 2014 by an England team riding high on the back of the London 2012 Olympics. Back on home soil at Gold Coast 2018, can the Australians reclaim the No.1 position they’ve become accustomed to occupying? Meet the athletes who’ll be striving to answer that question in the affirmative.
The Australian public love few sportsmen quite as much as this 31-year-old hurdler, after she bounced back from a horror two years riddled with wrist, Achilles and hamstring injuries to take out the 100m hurdles at the 2017 World Championships in London. Pearson’s CV already features two Olympic medals as well as back-to-back Commonwealth crowns in her pet event, and a third gold at the 2018 Comm Games would be particularly special for the Gold Coast resident.
During Glasgow 2014, Kyle Chalmers was just a 16-year-old school kid in Year 10 at Adelaide’s Immanuel College. Four years later, he’ll enter Gold Coast 2018 as one of Australia’s biggest swim stars, targeting Commonwealth gold in the 100m freestyle event he won at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Gold Coast 2018 ambassador Cameron McEvoy and four-time Commonwealth champ Emma McKeon are other big Aussie names to keep an eye on in the pool.
Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens Team
Gold Coast 2018 marks the first Commonwealth Games where an equal number of medals are up for grabs for men and women, thanks in part to the introduction of women’s rugby sevens for the first time. After winning gold at the Rio 2016 Olympics, the Aussie girls carry the hopes of the local fans on their shoulders, but will face stiff competition from New Zealand, Canada and England at Robina Stadium.
Kelly has medalled in the 105kg+ weightlifting at the last three Comm Games — silver at Melbourne 2006, gold at Delhi 2010 and bronze at Glasgow 2014 — and the 34-year-old North Queenslander will be hoping to return to the podium in his home state this year. Weightlifting in Australia has enjoyed a resurgence over the last decade thanks to the rise of CrossFit, and plenty of local competitors will challenge the recent dominance of Nigeria and India.
Since hockey was introduced to the Commonwealth Games in 1998, Australia’s men have snagged all five gold medals, lost just one match and conceded only two goals in medal matches. So no pressure then, as they enter Gold Coast 2018 gunning for their sixth straight Commonwealth crown. The Kookaburras take a new-look squad into the Comm Games after missing out on an Olympic medal for the first time since 1988 at Rio 2016.
One of the fastest female track cyclists on the planet goes into Gold Coast 2018 aiming to add to the two medals — one gold and one silver — she collected at Glasgow 2014. Four years ago, the 27-year-old South Australian edged out her idol Anna Meares to win gold in the sprint — and now she has the chance to go back-to-back at a brand new velodrome that bears Meares’ name.
This 34-year-old wheelchair racer is one of the most decorated athletes in Australia’s sporting history, claiming 13 Paralympic medals across five Games, four world championship titles, plus gold then silver in the 1500 m T54 at the last two Commonwealth Games. And Fearnley will pull the curtain on his glittering career in front of family and friends at Gold Coast 2018, which will host the Comm Games’ first ever wheelchair marathon.
All eyes will be on the Coomera Indoor Sports Centre on Sunday 15 April for the gold medal match in the netball, which if history is any guide, will be contested by Australia and New Zealand. The trans Tasman rivals have met in every final since netball’s Comm Games debut in 1998 — the Diamonds winning three, the Silver Ferns two — and the locals will aim to make it four with victory in front of a boisterous home crowd.
The 26-year-old Queenslander has left no stone unturned on her quest for Commonwealth glory, moving from the Gold Coast to Wollongong south of Sydney to work with a new coach ahead of her assault on the triathlon. Gentle started a medal fancy at Rio 2016 but finished a lowly 26th, and will be using that disappointment as motivation on the road to a first Commonwealth medal.
Aged just 21, this tough-as-nails boxer has already notched 122 wins from 135 fights, which helps explain why he’s a hot chance of a medal in the 64kg division this April. Wilson will be hoping his career can follow a similar path to fellow Queenslander and former team-mate Jeff Horn, who used the 2012 Olympics to springboard his amateur career into professional bouts — including his defeat of Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao to claim the WBO welterweight title in 2017.