THE sport has been thrown open at the Games for the first time, enabling some of the big names of British cycling to compete. Neither Chris Boardman, who collected two bronze medals four years ago, nor Scotland's Graeme Obree - who chose to concentrate on the World Championships - will be there, but Malcolm Elliott, a double gold winner on the road 12 years ago, and Tony Doyle, twice the world professional pursuit champion, are riding for England. Doyle will be keen to fill a gap in his medal collection, having taken only a bronze in 1978.
English medal hopes were reduced by the surprising decision to leave out the sprinter Paul McHugh, who was disqualified during the British Championships.
The Welsh have no great history of success but they picked up their first gold at the last Games when Louise Jones won the women's road race, the only gold to escape the clutches of Australia or New Zealand. This time their men's time-trial team could capture a medal and Sally Hodge could also challenge strongly in the new women's event, the points race.
Australians expect a handsome return on thorough preparations, including heavy investment in a training camp in New Mexico. Phil Anderson is is expected to excel as he returns after a 15-year professional career to try to repeat his road race success of 1978.
Sport is hoping for a clean lift: Weightlifting
THE words 'Keep it clean' have become virtually a slogan as the sport endeavours to restore the image of strongmen of all sizes. At the last Commonwealth Games, achievements in the sport were submerged under the publicity of drug offences and the same blight hit the competition at the Barcelona Olympics. Two Welshmen - Ricky Chaplin and Gareth Hives - were caught out in New Zealand four years ago and in Barcelona, Andrew Davies, also Welsh, and Andrew Saxton, who won three golds for England in Auckland, were expelled from the Olympic Village.
Saxton, subsequently exonerated, is competing in Victoria, but for Australia, where he was born. Hives, who lost his three Auckland silver medals and was initially banned for life, is also back in action. He was allowed to start lifting again when the British Amateur Weightlifting Association trimmed his ban to four years, in line with International Olympic Committee rules. For David Morgan, it is particularly important that the Games are clean. He will be attempting to win gold at a fourth successive Commonwealths and with it wider recognition of his achievements.
India, with high hopes in the lighter categories, insisted on all their lifters being tested before travelling to Canada, having lost a silver medal through drug abuse in 1990.
Loban steps out of the shadows: Wrestling
INDIA, Pakistan and Canada have traditionally dominated, but England has also had a measure of success in a sport which returns in its freestyle form after being left off the programme four years ago.
Its reinstatement allows Neil Loban to step temporarily out of his role as a trainer and coach to return to the international arena in the white of England in pursuit of another gold. Born in London, he grew up in New York, learning in America much of the craft that brought him the 90kg title in 1986. He had picked up an Olympic bronze medal two years earlier.
Also back in competition for England is Brian Aspen. The eight-times British champion, whose father wrestled in the Commonwealth Games between 1958 and 1970, won a gold medal at bantamweight in 1982 and twice took bronze medals.
Scotland's Graeme English almost did not make it to the start after contracting a rash, but doctors cleared him to compete.
Ramesh Kumar, who won a gold medal in the light-flyweight division at the Commonwealth championships in Vancouver last year, and Ashok Kumar (no relation) who was second in the bantamweight category, lead the Indian challenge.
Aside from the Canadian contingent, and the returning South Africans, other medal challenges will come from New Zealand.
Men's aim is to emulate Cooper: Shooting
WITH women competing separately from men for the first time at these Games, Susan Hartop raised Welsh gold medal hopes with an impressive performance in a pre-Games event, outshooting Scotland's Shirley McIntosh. Hartop had perfect scores of 100 in two rounds of the small-bore prone rifle 50m and finished with 590 out of 600. England's Carol Page displayed medal form in finishing second in the sport pistol event.
The English men have the difficult task of emulating the achievements of the retired Malcolm Cooper, who won two Olympic golds and a Commonwealth title in the small-bore rifle three positions in 1986. Kenneth Harman is back to defend his individual skeet title and he and Andrew Austin will be trying to go one better than their silver in the pairs last time. Another silver medallist four years ago, Chris Hector, will try again in air rifle and three positions rifle.
Britain's best hopes could be in the full- bore rifle, where England's Glyn Barnett Ringer competes with defending champion Colin Mallett, of Jersey.
Strong Australian and New Zealand shooters will come up against Jaspal Rana, the Indian teenage prodigy, in the free pistol, air pistol and centre-fire pistol events. In recent trials Rana trounced the veteran, Ashok Pandit, who will defend his Commonwealth title in the centre-fire pistol.
Pressure falls on Thomas to lead: Gymnastics
MUCH of England's hopes of wresting the men's team title from Canada will rest on the shoulders of Neil Thomas, the most successful male gymnast Britain has produced. With two world championship silver medals and gold in the floor exercises in Auckland behind him, Thomas will be under pressure to display his best form to inspire his team-mates to improve on second place last time.
In the individual he should have the edge on his main rivals from Canada and Australia, the two nations which mopped up all the medals to elude England four years ago.
The women's team has a little further to climb after taking the bronze in 1990, but in Jacqueline Brady they have a strong leader. Brady, the British champion, was the first woman to win all five domestic titles at the same event last year and has enough international experience to cope with the atmosphere of intense rivalry. She is one gymnast who should have no problem with the harder, championship-standard landing mats being used. The Welsh have suffered, while two Scottish gymnasts, Yvonne Black and Gayle Gosden, have suffered knee injuries, though those were not related to the thickness of the mats.
In the rhythmic section, England is expecting much from the Southwick sisters, Debbie and Linda, as well as Aisha McKenzie.
Games Analysis: Kelly leads the Irish challenge: Boxing
NORTHERN IRELAND could emerge as the most successful home nation, especially as England is fielding its smallest team since the Fifties. Money is largely the problem for England - the lack of it in the amateur sport, and the lure of it that took two ABA champions straight into the professional ranks.
Among their 11 fighters, Northern Ireland have Damaen Kelly, who looks capable of inheriting Wayne McCullough's flyweight title, and Neil Sinclair, a medal hopeful at welterweight.
England did manage to keep the super- heavyweight Danny Williams out of the hands of the agents and promoters and he represents one of the country's best title prospects. However, he may have to deal with the powerful Welshman Kevin McCormack, a 27-year-old in the Royal Navy who has three ABA titles and a European championship semi-final to his credit.
The Welsh also have high hopes of the hard-punching Jason Cook at featherweight and the lightweight Gareth Lawrence. However, they may lose the Pontypridd middleweight Grant Biggs, who was cut under the left eye in pre-tournament sparring.
Brian Carr is Scotland's leading contender. The featherweight from Glasgow has a point to prove after losing an untidy opening bout at the Barcelona Olympics.
Allcock aims at Bryant record: Bowls
TONY ALLCOCK beat Richard Corsie in the final of the world outdoor championships two years ago and the pair may well find themselves carrying the flags of England and Scotland respectively into another tussle for gold in Victoria.
Allcock, the world No 1, is expected to follow the example set by David Bryant, who numbers four successive singles titles in the Sixties and Seventies among his five Commonwealth golds, but Corsie will be determined to improve on two bronze medals.
Norma Shaw, who faces a strong challenge from Northern Ireland's world champion Margaret Johnston, will bring her renowned ruthlessness to bear in her pursuit of the women's singles title. 'You need a killer instinct,' Shaw says. 'If you beat someone easily people say you are cruel, but you cannot allow yourself to relax because your opponent will win an end, change the length of the jack and you may not score again. If I can win 21-0 I will.' She won a triples bronze medal on her Games debut in Brisbane in 1982 and silver medals in triples and fours in Auckland four years ago,
Gary Smith and Andy Thomson will present a powerful English challenge in the men's pairs. The Scots, Graham Robertson and Alex Marshall, and the Welshmen, John Price and Robert Weale, also have a good chance of getting into the semi-finals.
Clark back for fourth attempt: Badminton
GILL CLARK has already captured nine medals in three Commonwealth Games. By Saturday week England's most capped woman could have won three more medals - possibly all gold, writes James Leigh.
The four-times European doubles champion keeps coming back just when she has been written off and, after being dropped by England in April, would like nothing better than to prove wrong once again all those who have been saying she should retire.
She is favourite with Julie Bradbury for the womens doubles title, second seed with Chris Hunt in the mixed doubles, and a virtual certainty for the England side which is top-seeded in the team event. 'Playing for England still gives me the greatest pleasure, even though there is more money in badminton now,' she says.
Rashid Sidek is the favourite to retain the mens singles, with two other Malaysians, Cheah Soon Kit and Soo Beng Kiang, seeded to win the mens doubles. With Nick Ponting and Joanne Wright top-seeded in the mixed doubles, English players are seeded to win three golds and seven medals altogether. But against the great strength of the Malaysian men and with improving opposition from Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and several other countries, they may do well to remain the Commonwealth's leading badminton nation.Reuse content