Gold Coast Review: Shining stars for 2020

After 11 days of sporting action, the curtain has come down on the XXI Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast and what a Games it has been for the home nations.

After 11 days of sporting action, the curtain has come down on the XXI Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast. Four years after Glasgow 2014, athletes from across the home nations have once again stepped up to the mark, with established stars shining and a whole host of new names emerging. And with a little over 800 days to go until the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, it’s looking good from a British perspective.

Rank      Country                      Gold    Silver  Bronze            Total

2nd         England                      45       45       46                   136

7th          Wales                         10       12       14                    36

8th          Scotland                     9          13       22                   44

20th        Northern Ireland        1          7          4                     12

England topped the medal tally when the Games were held on British shores four years ago in Glasgow.

And while Australia have upped their game at their home event this time around, English athletes have still done enough to comfortably finish second in the medal table.

Gymnastics was one sport in particular in which they excelled with Rio 2016 high bar bronze medallist Nile Wilson leading the way with no fewer than five medals – golds in the all-around, high bar and team event and silvers in the rings and parallel bars.

With a number of experienced female gymnasts missing through injury, it was also a chance for others to step up and they did it in some style too, taking team silver while 17-year-olds Georgia-Mae Fenton and Alice Kinsella took gold in the uneven bars and beam respectively, while 22-year-old James Hall finished second to Wilson in the all-around and high bar.

In the ring, English boxers bossed matters with no fewer than six gold medals as Lisa Whiteside and Sandy Ryan both picked up women’s titles while 19-year-old bantamweight Peter McGrail was among the winners with twin brothers Pat and Luke McCormack coming home with welterweight gold and light welterweight bronze respectively.

England also shone in the pool, with Olympic champion Adam Peaty demonstrating his dominance over the 100m breaststroke, and global medallists Ben Proud, James Guy and Siobhan-Marie O’Connor adding to their collections.

But 23-year-old Peaty has company with James Wilby, just under one year old his senior, taking home 200m breaststroke gold, 100m breaststroke silver, 50m breaststroke bronze and silver in the 4x100m medley relay.

The familiar names shone on the diving boards with Tom Daley, Chris Mears and Jack Laugher climbing the top step of the medal rostrum – the latter an impressive three times – with 17-year-old Matthew Dixon also picking up double silver in the 10m platform and 10m synchro.

Gold Coast 2018 was also a chance to see glimpses of potential Tokyo 2020 cycling stars – and results were promising.

The Tanfield siblings were chief among them, with Charlie taking men’s pursuit gold on the track before brother Harry followed that with silver in the men’s time trial.

At the athletics, 25-year-old Katarina Johnson-Thompson finally delivered on her potential with her first global outdoor heptathlon title – and another multi-sport star appeared in 18-year-old Niamh Emerson who took bronze.

Meanwhile 24-year-old Nick Miller can now call himself a Commonwealth Games hammer champion with Tom Bosworth continuing his progression as a major contender in the race walk with silver.

The team sports also produced plenty of silverware with both hockey teams picking up bronze – men’s player Sam Ward finishing as the tournament’s top scorer with nine goals from six matches – while England women picked up an impressive basketball silver.

And England were once again strong in racquet sports, finishing with six medals on the badminton court, including  while Liam Pitchford further underlined his credentials for Tokyo 2020 as he became England’s most decorated table tennis player ever, including winning men's doubles gold with Paul Drinkhall and mixed doubles silver with 19-year-old Tin-Tin Ho.

Wales leave the Gold Coast following the most successful Commonwealth Games in their history and with a number of stars set to make waves in a range of sports over the next few years.

They equalled both their record medal haul of 36, set in Glasgow in 2014, and also the ten golds they won in Auckland back in 1990.

The cyclists particularly shone in Australia as Elinor Barker – already an Olympic gold medallist and three-time world champion – confirmed her status as one of the sport’s elite by winning the women’s point race in the velodrome before turning domestique on the road to help Dani Rowe claim a hard-fought bronze.

Jon Mould also celebrated a medal in the road race as he took silver in the men’s edition on the penultimate day of the Games.

A pair of hard-hitting boxers will be turning their attentions to the Tokyo 202 Olympic Games after climbing the top step of the podium – former kickboxer Lauren Price flattening all before her in the 75kg division, while 19-year-old Sammy Lee won men’s 81kg gold, besting Samoan Ato Plodzicki-Faoagali in the final, only his third senior fight.

Alys Thomas swum superbly to take women’s 200m butterfly gold, before helping a quartet made up of her, Georgia Davies, Chloe Tutton and Kathryn Greenslade to 4x100m medley relay bronze – the same colour medal that Tutton and Davies walked away with in the 200m breaststroke and the 50m backstroke respectively.

The Welsh proved themselves a nation of sharp-shooters as 41-year-old David Phelps and 46-year-old Michael Wixey got that golden feeling on the range, while at the other end of the age spectrum, 17-year-old gymnast Latalia Bevan earmarked herself as one to watch for Tokyo with silver on the floor.

And plenty of Welsh athletes posted the best result of their career, including 31-year-old weightlifter Gareth Evans winning gold in the 69kg category and 1500m runner Melissa Courtney earning a surprise bronze on the track.

Scotland will certainly leave the Gold Coast satisfied after making history with a record medal haul for an overseas Commonwealth Games.

They exit Australia with 44 medals – good enough for eighth in the medal table – with nine golds included in that total.

If it felt like Duncan Scott was responsible for the majority of that haul on his own, that’s because he might as well have bought a second home on the podium – the 20-year-old swimmer accruing six medals in the pool and rounding matters off by being named as his country's flagbearer for the closing ceremony.

His pièce de résistance was gold in the men’s 100m freestyle but he also claimed silver in the 200m individual medley and four bronzes in the 200m freestyle, the 200m butterfly, the 4x100m freestyle relay and the 4x200m freestyle relay to secure the biggest collection of medals from a single Games by any Scottish athlete in history.

Scott will have his eye on further success when the 2020 Olympic Games roll around, while compatriots Ross Murdoch (200m breaststroke), Hannah Miley (400m IM) and Mark Szaranek (400m IM) also impressed with swimming silvers.

Further aquatic history was made as constantly improving 21-year-old Grace Reid ended Scotland’s 60-year wait for a diving gold by triumphing in the 1m springboard and James Heatly clinched bronze for the first Scottish men’s 1m springboard medal since his grandfather Peter Heatly in 1958.

Away from the pool, the velodrome saw a slew of Scottish medals including Mark Stewart’s surprising men’s points race success and a less surprising gold for Olympic champion Katie Archibald in the women’s individual pursuit.

Archibald also added points race silver to confirm her status as one of the elite track cyclists in the world, while her brother John Archibald matched that silver medal in the men’s individual pursuit and Neah Evans also left with two medals (scratch race silver and points race bronze).

On the track, opening ceremony flagbearer and Rio 2016 Olympic medallist Eilidh Doyle took silver in the women’s 400m hurdles, as Jake Wightman and Mark Dry won bronzes in the 1500m and hammer respectively. Rio 2016 Olympian Callum Hawkins also further underlined his marathon credentials, leading with just a mile of the marathon to go before the hot conditions took their toll. Teammate Robbie Simpson took bronze.

And 22-year-old gymnast Frank Baines earmarked himself as one for the future by claiming bronze in both the parallel bars and the team event.

Northern Ireland head for home with 12 medals to their name but the undisputed star of the show was history-making gymnast Rhys McClenaghan.

Just 18 years old, the Newtownards boy marked himself out as not just a future superstar but a man capable of excelling at the highest level right now.

McClenaghan won gold on the pommel horse – Northern Ireland’s first-ever medal for an artistic gymnast – which is an impressive enough feat in itself but he did so by pipping reigning Olympic and two-time world champion Max Whitlock by dint of a higher execution score, after tying on overall scores.

And as he puts his Commonwealth gold in the trophy cabinet, the teenager is already aiming even higher.

Aside from McClenaghan, it was in the boxing ring where Northern Ireland found the majority of their medal success – leaving with a remarkable six silvers and two bronzes.

The Walsh siblings, Aidan (-69kg) and Michaela (-57kg), came second in their weight classes, as did Brendan Irvine (-52kg), Kurt Walker (-56kg), Kristina O’Hara (-48kg) and Carly McNaul (-51kg). James McGivern (-60kg) and Steven Donnelly (-75kg) had to settle for the bottom step of the podium.

A pair of shooters earned themselves a Commonwealth medal as 29-year-old Kirsty Barr won trap silver and Gareth McAuley, 25, took skeet bronze, while Leon Reid won a first Northern athletics medal in 28 years by claiming 200m bronze on the track. Sportsbeat 2018