Athletics / Commonwealth Games: Where the medals will be won in Canada this week

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The Independent Online

England boasts a remarkable Commonwealth champion in Neil Thomas, who is the most successful gymnast Britain has produced. In 1993 and 1994, he won successive world championship silver medals in floor exercises, and at the Barcelona Olympics he missed a place in the final eight on the floor only on countback. He also helped England to the Commonwealth team silver, behind Canada, in 1990.

England, Canada and Australia shared the men's medals four years ago and the majority of the women's honours went their way, too. There seems little prospect of a change in the balance of power this time, although New Zealand's women will hope to make further inroads after winning two golds and five bronzes in Auckland.


English shooters have a difficult task in trying to fill the gap left by the retirement of Malcolm Cooper, who won Olympic golds in 1984 and 1988, and the 1986 Commonwealth Games title in the small-bore rifle three positions event. Kenneth Harmn will be out to repeat his victory of four years ago in the individual skeet, one of 16 events on the shooting programme.

The sport provides an opportunity for the smaller teams to challenge for medals. Jersey picked up the individual full bore title last time through Colin Mallett and Guernsey matched that with Adrian Breton's success in the rapid fire pistol. Both are defending their titles. The Falkland Islands have a four-strong team, three of them being shooters.


The return of the sport in its freestyle form after its omission from the Auckland Games four years ago willallow Neil Loban, who was born in London but grew up in New York, to return to the international arena. An Olympic bronze medallist in 1984, the 27- year-old won the Commonwealth 90kg gold in 1986. He puts his 98kg frame to good use on the rugby pitch and hones his mental alertness by playing chess.

Canada's powerful and improved team expects to do well on home territory. New Zealand and Australia will also offer strong medal challenges, while India has a chance of a gold medal through Ramesh Kumar, who won the light-flyweight division at the Commonwealth championships in Vancouver last year.


Drug abuse is weightlifting's perennial problem. Two Welshmen were sent home in disgrace from the last Commonwealth Games in New Zealand, though one of them, Gareth Hives, will be taking part in Victoria. The other, Andrew Davies, and Andrew Saxton, who won the 100kg gold for England in 1990, were thrown out of the Barcelona Olympics two years ago. All of which distracts from the real successes in the sport, such as David Morgan, who will be trying to extend his gold medal streak to a fourth successive Commonwealth Games. The Indian lifters, who expect to dominate the four categories up to 67.5kg, all had drug tests before going to Canada after Subratakumar Paul was stripped of a silver medal in New Zealand.


One man has dominated this event since 1962, but has finally called it a day. Clevedon's David Bryant won five gold medals between 1962 and 1990, but has handed over the mantle to his colleague Tony Allcock, who is tipped to win the men's singles.

Richard Corsie, a 27-year old Scot, lost to Allcock in the world outdoor final two years ago, and will be determined to improve on his two bronze medals.

Gary Smith and Andy Thomson have an unmatched pairs record in England but can expect a spirited challenge from Scotland's Graham Robertson and Alex Marshall and the Welsh pair, John Price and Robert Weale.

Northern Ireland's Margaret Johnston, the world singles champion, faces a challenge from England's Norma Shaw.


With the cycling events open to professionals for the first time, several past champions have an opportunity to turn back the clock. England have Malcolm Elliott, a double gold winner in the 1982 road events, while Tony Doyle, who won a bronze in the 4,000 metres track pursuit in Edmonton and has since twice won the world title as a pro, will try for the gold he missed 16 years ago.

Also contesting the pursuit for England is Shaun Wallace, from Hampshire. He will arrive direct from Sicily after competing in the world track championships. Much of the power, however, resides with Australia on the track and New Zealand on the road. Phil Anderson, who has had a 15- year pro career in Europe, returns 16 years after his road race Games gold.


While the standards of amateur boxing at the Commonwealth Games are traditionally less exacting than the Olympics or the world championships, medals will still be difficult to come by for boxers from the four home countries.

Financial constraints and the lure of the pro game - two of this year's ABA champions passed up the chance of a trip to Canada to sign professional contracts - have restricted England's team to just eight, their smallest at this event since the Fifties.

It is a decidedly youthful squad, with an average age of just over 21and only one boxer who has previous experience of the Commonwealth Games. That man, Peter Richardson of the Repton club in Bethnal Green, was a lightweight quarter-finalist in Auckland four years ago and this time goes at light-welterweight, where he has the strength and skill to get among the medals. England's other big hopes are the hard-hitting London super-heavyweight Danny Williams and the two unrelated Olivers: Finchley's Spencer, a rising bantamweight, and Kelly, a tough light-heavyweight from Lincoln.

Northern Ireland could emerge the most successful of the home nations. Their 11-man squad contains plenty of quality, most notably a world championship bronze medallist in the flyweight Damaen Kelly and the welterweight Neil Sinclair.


If Gill Clark and Julie Bradbury win the women's doubles gold medal - as they are favourites to do - it will be another remarkable achievement for Clark, who has already won nine Commonwealth medals, four of them gold.

England are also seeded to win two other gold medals - the mixed doubles and the team event - and if they win all three they will almost certainly be the most successful badminton nation. The Malaysians, however, could mount a serious challenge in theteam event.

The big disappointment is that England's former European champion Darren Hall has withdrawn from the men's singles with a back injury, so Rashid Sidek may successfully defend his title.

The women's singles favourite, Zarinah Abdullah of Singapore, is reported to be on an incentive bonus of dollars 100,000. These are lucrative times for the sport; Susi Susanti became a millionairess after winning gold on badminton's Olympic debut in Barcelona and recently the International Badminton Federation signed a TV deal worth dollars 20m to broadcast the sport in more than 50 countries.


The English team will be hoping that their three world short-course champions - Karen Pickering, Nick Gillingham and Mark Foster - will set the standard for the rest to follow in the pool.

Four years ago, Gillingham failed by his own high standards, winning just two bronze medals in the 100m and 200m breaststroke. But if he has been able to shrug off the back twinges which caused him to withdraw from last month's national championships and can show the kind of form that has won medals at Olympic, World and European Championships, he should have no problems this time taking gold at the longer distance.

Pickering, meanwhile, will renew her rivalry with Australia's Susan O'Neil. It was O'Neil who Pickering pushed into the silver medal position in the 200m freestyle at the World Short-course Championships. Bronze medallist four years ago, Mark Foster will be aiming for a medal of brighter colour to add to his world short-course gold.

Australia's quality should place them on top of the medal table, and Hayley Lewis will be hoping to add to her four individual golds of four years ago. Kieren Perkins, who thrilled everyone at the Barcelona Olympics when he shattered the world record when winning gold in the 1500m freestyle, will hope to lead his fellow countrymen home to repeat their clean sweep of the 1990 Games in Auckland.

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