Postcards from KL: Wish you were at the Games

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The Independent Online
QUAKE RADDOCK

Fijian weightlifter

This is our highlight competition after the Olympic Games. We came here hoping for four medals in the weightlifting but the best we did was fourth. For me, I was distracted by the English girls. My coach didn't mind though; I think he was distracted too! We were thrown out of the Games in 1987 after the coup in Fiji and were only readmitted in 1997. The expectations from our country are high, but the administration is in chaos. We have no money. We are like the African badminton players who came with nothing and bought their racquets when they got here. Being so isolated, it's so expensive to go to competitions and we are given peanuts compared to Australia and New Zealand.

JERVASA CHAKUNODZI

Malawi executive sports director

The facilities here are well beyond our expectations. They are so spectacular. My country looks at the Games as a forum where excellence of sport can always come out and we can gauge our international performance. Usually we just compete within Africa and we see this as a mini-Olympics. We are not just here for experience, we are here to win. We have two shooters, two for athletics and 12 for our netball team. The climax for us was to beat Wales in netball. They were our teachers and now we have beaten them, we are so happy. We have very strong ties to Britain because of their influence on us and we want to show our solidarity with them by coming to Manchester in 2002.

WONG MEI YEE

Malaysian netball player

At the Commonwealth Games in Victoria in 1994 we won medals only in badminton and weightlifting. So competing for the home country here puts a lot of pressure on us and all of Malaysia is giving us moral support. It is very different from competing overseas because here you can feel that everyone's eyes are on you. But this is so good, and it is probably the best competition we will ever get to go to. There is a very high profile for the Commonwealth Games here. Every week for months and months in the build up, a new sport and new athletes were on the television. It is great for sport here in Malaysia with all the access to foreign coaches and now the new facilities.

HELEN WATTS

Guernsey swimmer

We know we'll get no medals and come last in everything but being here is our reward. We can compete against the best in the world and see how they do it. People back home want us to win medals and we never do, but they all still think it's brill to watch us on TV. With a population of 55,000 everyone knows someone at the Games so it's quite a big thing. This is like our Olympics. It's quite a family trip. Our ten-pin bowler is Derek Tomlin, and his two kids, Michelle and John, are both on the swimming team. Michelle went for a massage at the Victoria Games and fell in love with the masseur. She married him a year later and he is also here as a masseur on the Canadian team.

JUDI VAN NIEKERK

South African synchro team

The Commonwealth Games are really big back in South Africa and the team managers always say we are going to win so many medals but really it is a great achievement just to make a final. We have missed so much because of the sporting boycott of South Africa. We are lacking in knowledge and experience. Cricket and rugby were always heavily supported, but the athletes in all the other sports reached a certain level and then just stopped. There was just no point in carrying on. A lot of sports died a death, even though we have some of the best facilities in the world. But they will all be watching us on the telly back home. Until the rugby starts again, of course.

BOB WEIR

English discus thrower

I'm biased because I won a gold, but this has been a special Games. The facilities have been good. It's been exciting, positive and people have been very helpful. Having won gold 16 years ago, I appreciate this one more. I was ranked fourth going into the event, so I wasn't expecting gold, I just knew I was competing well and felt confident. Even when I lost the lead near the end, I knew I had two throws to go. I believe winning gold in two events [his first was the hammer] so far apart is a record for a major Games, so at least I'll be a question in Trivial Pursuit. I just wish I knew the words to "Land of Hope and Glory".

INTERVIEWS: JAMES PARRACK AND ANDREW LONGMORE

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