Countdown to Rio: Commonwealth Games special
August 3, 2014 18:24 pm
Home nation athletes excelled at the XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow with England topping the medal table for the first time since 1986 while hosts Scotland enjoyed their most successful ever Games and Wales also hit what was an ambitious medal target.
And that all bodes well with two years to go until the 2016 Olympics on Tuesday August 5th.
Greg Rutherford's long jump victory was a big confidence boost for the Olympic champion heading into the European Championships in Zurich later this month.
“Now I've managed to come away with another title. I think a few people had written me off thinking I was a one-hit wonder. But I'm here again and will be here again many more times. I'm super happy," he said.
International newcomer Matthew Hudson-Smith also caught the eye with an impressive anchor leg as England's 4x400m relay team won gold at Hampden Park.
Lynsey Sharp and Eilidh Child both had plenty of home expectation to cope with but ran impressively to claim second behind world class opposition in the 800m and 400m hurdles. And there was a breakthrough silver for promising 20-year old Jazmin Sawyers in the long jump.
Chris and Gabby Adcock are looking to Rio after winning mixed doubles gold in Glasgow, beating English team-mates Chris Langridge and Heather Olver in the final.
The husband and wife team were also part of the England squad that won team event silver, while Gabby joined forces with Lauren Smith to take women's doubles bronze.
There was also a bronze for Chris Langridge and Peter Mills in the men's doubles, while Imogen Bankier and Robert Blair won mixed doubles bronze and fellow Scot Kirsty Gilmour took women's singles silver.
Team GB qualified boxers announced their intentions in Glasgow with some stylish wins.
England won seven medals in total, including five golds, while Scotland won two golds and two bronzes and Wales took five bronzes.
Olympic champion Nicola Adams added the Commonwealth flyweight title to her resume while Savannah Marshall bounced back from a disappointing London 2012 to win the women's middleweight title. She now heads to the World Championships later this year, where she is defending her title, in confident mood.
England's men's team were the most impressive with golds for Antony Fowler, Joseph Joyce and Scott Fitzgerald in the middleweight, super heavyweight and welterweight categories.
"The team has been great. We've are getting better and better as a country, people look at us as a danger country now with the likes of Russia and Cuba," said Joyce.
And Charlie Flynn and Josh Taylor were the toast of Scotland after their golds in men's lightweight and light welterweight.
Two-time Olympic gold medallist Geraint Thomas - straight off the Tour de France - defied the appalling conditions to win the men's road race for Wales, while Olympic silver medallist Lizzie Armitstead powered to gold in the women's race.
"Coming off the Tour De France, I was tired at the end of that. I thought it would be a massive challenge to get a result here but the motivation was there," said Thomas.
"I was buzzing to compete for Team Wales. I just got stuck in and it couldn't have got any better. Carrying the flag in the closing ceremony will be a massive honour. That is just as good as winning a race and that means a lot to me and my family."
Over at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, Laura Trott recovered from a kidney infection to add Commonwealth gold to her two Olympic titles in the 25km points race - proving just how tough and resilient she is.
And Joanna Rowsell added to her world title in the individual pursuit, which is not part of the schedule in Rio.
Emma Pooley, the 2008 Olympic silver medallist, won't be riding in Rio after announcing her retirement - but finished her impressive career with time trial and road race silver.
English divers won ten of the 29 available medals, with Jack Laugher underlining his potential with double gold.
Laugher, still just 19, won the 1m springboard title and then partnered with best mate Chris Mears to taste success in the 3m synchro.
"These Games have been an absolute dream for me," said Laugher. "I was hoping, if I could get lucky, to come away with three medals. To come away with two golds and a silver is fantastic."
Tom Daley, a double gold medallist four years ago, settled for silver and gold in Glasgow - his win coming in the 10m platform.
“I think British diving is in a very strong place," said Daley.
"England has topped the medal table and it’s the most medals we have won in a Commonwealth Games. The whole team has done amazingly well and I’m sure there’s a lot more to come."
And Alicia Blagg and Rebecca Gallantree underlined their partnership is one to watch with success in the 3m synchro.
British gymnasts claimed 26 podium places, with England topping the medal table thanks to four golds from new star Claudia Fragapane.
Still just 16, she vowed with a world-class floor routine and also won the all-around title, vault and joined forces to strike gold in the team event.
“I’m speechless,” said Fragapane when told she was the first English athlete to win four golds since 1930. “It’s just incredible."
Double Olympic bronze medallist Max Whitlock was the pick of the British men's gymnasts with golds in the floor, all-around and team event.
And Scots Daniel Purvis and Daniel Keatings also impressed with parallel bars and pommel horse gold respectively.
"It was amazing to be in front of a home crowd and do probably one of my best routines," said Keatings.
London 2012 Olympian Francesca Jones won ribbon gold but she won't be heading to Rio after announcing her retirement.
"It is beyond words. I have had the most amazing few days, I literally can't believe that we just got to have the Welsh flag flying - it is phenomenal, I am so proud of myself," said the 23-year old.
After a disastrous World Cup, England women's rebounded in Glasgow and nearly pulled off a shock gold medal.
Leading with just seconds remaining of their final with world silver medallists Australia, they went on to lose on penalties to the determined Hockeyroos.
Captain Kate Richardson-Walsh will announce her future plans in the weeks ahead but this was an encouraging show for the future whatever her intentions.
Captain Barry Middleton helped England win Commonwealth Games hockey bronze - and vowed the best is yet to come.
England bounced back from a semi-final defeat to Australia to hold their nerve in a penalty shoot-out win over New Zealand in Glasgow.
And the bronze medal also ends a run of fourth-placed finishes at the last Commonwealth Games, the Olympic Games and the recent World Cup.
"Hopefully this takes us on," he said. "We're going to enjoy this now but then we need to remember what got us there, we must go further. This is a very good group of players and since London we've improved at every tournament we've played.
"These guys just want to get better every day. This will keep me playing for a long time because I believe in this group and I think we can go and win things."
Judo in Glasgow was dominated by the home nations with England and Scotland winning six golds each.
London Olympians Ashley McKenzie and Colin Oates immediately targeted Rio after their wins in the men's -60kg and -66kg.
Olympic silver medallist Gemma Gibbons settled for the same medal again in the women's -78kg after defeat to Welsh judoka Natalie Powell but husband Euan Burton, the two-time Olympian, brought the curtain down on his career with a win in the men's -100kg.
Fellow Scots and London 2012 team-mates Chris Sherrington and Sarah Clark won the men's +100kg and women's -63kg respectively.
Home nations have only ever won one Commonwealth Games medal in five attempts and they didn't improve that record at Ibrox.
Despite coming in ranked fourth in the world, England lost in the quarter-finals to Samoa, the same stage Scotland and Wales exited to eventual gold medallists South Africa and Australia respectively.
"I'm naturally frustrated but I'm incredibly proud of the effort the guys showed," said England coach Simon Amor. "Their heart and their desire throughout was excellent.
"Unfortunately their decision-making and their execution wasn't good enough and, as a result, we didn't take our chances."
Charlotte Kerwood won gold in the event she was doing for fun but stuttered in her principle target for Rio.
Kerwood was all smiles after her success in the double trap - her fourth Commonwealth Games gold - but failed to qualify in the trap event.
Elsewhere, Steven Scott won the men's double trap and Daniel Rivers triumphed in the 50m air rifle three positions.
And there was success double gold for David Luckman in the Queen's Prize individual and alongside Parag Patel in the pairs.
After a disappointing swim meeting at the London 2012 Olympics, there is a new crop of British swimmers coming through ready to make an impact in Rio, with home nations winning 15 golds in the pool.
Sprinter Fran Halsall had arguably the busiest programme in Glasgow and won double gold in the 50m butterfly and freestyle.
Rising star Ben Proud also thrived in the splash and dash events, winning the same events for men.
Hannah Miley delighted the home crowd to claim gold in the 400m medley, Ross Murdoch shocked Olympic silver medallist Michael Jamieson to win the 200m breaststroke and Daniel Wallace scooped the men's 400m medley.
Sophie Taylor and Siobhan Marie O'Connor are other names for the future after their wins in the 100m breaststroke and 200m medley respectively and Chris Walker-Hebborn shrugged off his big occasion nerves to win the 100m backstroke.
And Jazz Carlin became the first women's Welsh swimmer to win Commonwealth Games gold in 40 years, dominating the 800m freestyle.
Just one day later Georgia Davies followed her lead in the 50m backstroke.
Alistair Brownlee and Jodie Stimpson made no secret their season was being targeted at Glasgow - and were duly rewarded with double gold.
Olympic champion Brownlee led home brother Jonathan Brownlee in the men's event and Stimpson took the women's race in style, team-mate Vicky Holland claiming bronze. The four then combined to totally dominate the mixed team relay.
Husband and wife Paul and Joanna Drinkhall upgraded their Delhi bronze to win mixed doubles gold - English pairs swept the podium.
Liam Pitchford, silver medallist in the mixed doubles, was also a bronze medallist in the men's singles and England's men took team silver behind Singapore again. But the challenge will now be on to qualify for Rio.
Zoe Smith, after many battles with injuries, won gold in the -58kg category. The girl once dubbed 'Britain’s strongest schoolgirl' lifted a Games record and, after her 12th place at London 2012, vowed: ‘Next stop, Rio!’.
Adding: "I want to be a contender in Rio – I want to be in the running. I need to give it more work yet because a 210kg total isn't going to win me a medal there but I think I've got what it takes to keep going."
Double European silver medallist Yana Rattigan won silver in the women's 48kg category and husband Leon Rattigan, competing in the men's 97kg class, was one of four English bronze medallists.
Rattigan, 27, was born in Ukraine and missed out on fighting for Great Britain at the London Olympics when her international clearance did not come through in time.
© Sportsbeat 2014