Sport | England come out on top

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There was a general feeling of apathy before the Commonwealth Games began, but the sea of goodwill and captivating performances that followed quashed all that. England finally ended the Australian stranglehold on the tournament, who had finished first the last six times. Here is just a selection of some of the standout English performances from Glasgow 2014.

 

In athletics, Adam Gemili, 20, saw his stock continue to rise as he posted a time of 10.10s in the 100m to finish second behind Jamaican Kemar Bailey-Cole. William Sharman is nearly ten years Gemili’s senior, but is in the form of his life. He would have won had he not clipped one of the final hurdles, but silver is still an excellent outcome for the man originally from Lagos. In the sprint relays, both the men and the women did themselves proud. The quartet of Gemili, Harry Aikines-Aryeteey, Danny Talbot and Richard Kilty beat the talented Trinidad & Tobago team, but had no answer to Bolt’s brilliance on the final leg and had to settle to silver. The 4x400m team went one better, with the highlight being a storming final lap from hot prospect Matthew Hudson-Smith. Jodie Williams, Asha Philip and Ashleigh Nelson ran excellently to come third in the shorter event, while the unfamiliar quartet of Christine Ohuruogu, Shana Cox, Kelly Massey and Anyika Onuora also secured bronze for Team England. The two Williams’ also claimed silver and bronze (Jodie beat Bianca) in the 200m. Greg Rutherford emulated his Olympic form with an 8.20m leap to emerge victorious, while Nicholas Miller threw the hammer nearly 73m, but had to be content with silver behind Canadian Jim Steacy. Another unsung athlete is Ashley Bryant, who passed the 8000 point mark and secured silver in the decathlon. In the para-sport 1500m T54 event, the imperious David Weir and Jade Jones claimed gold and bronze respectively. In addition, Dan Greaves won comfortably with a massive throw of in the F42/F44 discus, winning by a staggering 12.38m. Bethy Woodward has displayed versatility during her fledgling career, competing at various sprint distances, before turning her attention to the long jump T37/T38 in Glasgow. She did not disappoint picking up a silver.

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Gemili has emerged as a potential champion in the making
Image: Daily Mail

 

In the pole vault, Steve Lewis lived up to his billing, reaching 4.55m seeing off his team-mate Luke Cutts for an impressive one-two. Tiffany Porter had a tall order trying to overhaul the mercurial Sally Pearson, and while she failed in this mission, she picked up an impressive silver medal. Laura Weightman is currently coach by middle-distance legend Steve Cram, and she has continued her progression, with a second-placed finish this time around at 1500m. Another incredible story from these games concerned 40 year-old Jo Pavey, who has taken time off to have two children in the last five years, and her professionalism and commitment paid off with a bronze. Jessica Taylor profited from the absence of Katarina Johnson-Thompson. England still had a healthy drip of medals from the field, with Jazmin Sawyers securing long jump silver, with Isobel Pavey and Laura Samuel winning the same colour in the high jump and triple jump respectively. Jade Lally and Sophie Hitchon also picked up bronze medals, with the latter expected to pick up a lot more silverware in the years to come.

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Pavey gave birth for the second time last year
Image: The Guardian

 

In the badminton, the doubles teams were in a rich vein of form. The duo of Chris Langridge and Peter Mills overcame countrymen Andrew Ellis and Chris Adcock. The women’s pairing of Gabby Adcock and Lauren Smith came from one game down to defeating Malaysian counterparts Loo Yin Mim and Lai Pei Jing. The Adcocks then came together to defeat Langridge and Heather Olver, emphasising their status as one of the top mixed doubles pairings around and serious contenders for the gold at Rio 2016. The mixed team event saw England lose to a talented Malaysia.

 

In the bowls, the Men’s Fours came up against an impressive Scotland outfit and had to settle for silver, while the men’s pair of Andrew Knapper and Sam Tolchard won bronze. Natalie Melmore unfortunately could not defend her title, but still emerged with two silvers, one in the individual event and one in her partnership with Jamie-Lea Winch. The Para-sport open triples trio of Bob Love, David Fisher and Paul Brown also came away with a medal, beating their Scottish competitors Billy Allan, Michael Simpson and Kevin Wallace to the bronze. However, it was women’s triples team that really came up trumps, producing an emphatic and smashing their Australian adversaries.

 

In boxing, Leeds-born Qais Ashfaq displayed supreme skill to pick up silver in the bantamweight division. Sam Maxwell would have had a shot at gold had he not been the victim of a controversial unanimous decision in favour of Scot Josh Taylor. Elsewhere however, Scott Fitzgerald, Antony Fowler and Joe Joyce all picked up golds, with Savannah Marshall and superstar of London 2012 Nicola Adams among the first to become the first Commonwealth Games champions in women’s boxing.

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Nicola Adams was a cool customer on the biggest stage once again
Image: The Telegraph

 

There was a predictable glut of medals in the cycling, but not as many golds as we have come to expect. Alex Dowsett defeated all before in the men’s individual time trial. However, Jason Kenny lost out to New Zealander Sam Webster in a hotly-contested individual sprint, while England came up short in the team sprint against the Kiwis. The frustrations continued as the men’s 4000m team pursuit ended in disappointment. Scott Thwaites emerged with an admirable bronze from the road race, but the lack of overall wins could be a concern. Things are looking slightly rosier on the women’s side, with the star of the show undoubtedly being paracyclist Sophie Thornhill, who notched up golds in the sprint B2 tandem and the 1000m time trial B2 tandem. Emma Pooley capped off a fine career by claiming two silvers, and her ride in the road race enabled Lizzie Armitstead to claim the title and make up for the torment of second-place finishes in Delhi and at the London Olympics. Jess Varnish underlined her growing reputation with bronze in both the sprint and the individual time trial, while Olympic champions Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell showed their class once again, taking the 25km points race and 3000m individual pursuit respectively.

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Armitstead finally got her hands on a gold medal
Image: www. festivalofcycling.org

 

Tom Daley was in good form once more, with a gold in 10m platform to retain his title, while having to settle for silver in the synchronised 10m platform with partner James Denny. However, he was upstaged by Jack Laugher. The Leeds-based diver finished seventh in the synchronised 3m springboard in Delhi four years ago, but made no mistake this time, clinching the gold with Chris Mears, while Nick Robinson-Baker and Freddie Woodward brought home bronze. Laugher then went on to add 1m springboard gold and 3m springboard silver to his personal tally. At the age of 19, he is sure to enjoy many more moments like this in his career. Oliver Dingley picked up bronze in the 3m springboard, while in the women’s event, Leeds-born Hannah Starling sealed an excellent bronze. Sarah Barrow and Tonia Couch won bronze in the synchronised 10m springboard, while Alicia Blagg and Rebecca Gallantree provided an unexpected golden moment in the synchronised 3m springboard after both had been beset with injury this season.

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Jack Laugher has made great strides in the last year
Image: BBC

 

Gymnastics is another sport where England have strength-in-depth, and this showed in Glasgow. The England team were a class apart in the artistic men’s team event, while Max Whitlock and Nile Wilson, the 18 year-old from Leeds, took gold and bronze in the individual all-around event. Wilson continued to impress with a stunning gold in the horizontal bar, ousting team-mate Kristian Thomas, who received silver, a medal he also picked up in the vault. Wilson then beat Whitlock to silver with an excellent routine on the parallel bars, before Whitlock finished second in the pommel horse, pushing the returning Louis Smith, of Strictly Come Dancing fame, into third. On the women’s side, the artistic team event was won comfortably by England. The rest of the competition however belonged to the diminutive Claudia Fragapane, whose expressive, bold routines wowed judges. She led a clean sweep in the individual all-around event, whilst blowing away the competition on both the floor and the vault. The 16 year-old became the most successful female competitor at a Commonwealth Games in 84 years and could challenge for golds at Rio 2016. In the uneven bars, Rebecca Downie overcame her heartache on the beam to take gold ahead of compatriot Ruby Harrold who took bronze.

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England’s women enjoyed an excellent tournament
Image: The Telegraph

 

In hockey, both men and women were gunning for the title. While this did not transpire for either of them, both teams had great campaigns. Despite the men losing to Australia in the semi-finals, they displayed nerves in the bronze medal match, overcoming New Zealand in a penalty shoot-out. The women also bettered the Kiwis in a shoot-out, with their reward being a final with Australia. This match also went to a dreaded shoot-out. Unfortunately, England could not prevail on this occasion, but a silver medal is still a great result in a tournament with a lot of quality sides.

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Ashley McKenzie proved too strong for his opponents
Image: The Telegraph

 

English judo really came into its own at Glasgow 2014. Ashley McKenzie seems to have settled some of the off-the-mat distractions and delivered on his considerable promise to take gold in the under 60kg class. The -73kg weight category was taken by Danny Williams, while Colin Oates emerged emerged victorious in the -66kg class. The medals did not end there for the men, as Owen Livesey and Tom Reed did the one-two in the -81 category and Gary Hall claimed bronze in the under 90 category. The women also outdid themselves with golds for both Nekoda Davis and Megan Fletcher receiving gold in the -57kg and -70kg weight classes. Gemma Gibbons was beaten to gold in the -78kg class by Welshwoman Natalie Powell, matching her shock Olympic performance, while Jodie Myers was beaten gold by Scotland’s Sarah Adlington and Kelly Edwards lost out to Louise Renicks. Rounding off the medals for Team England were Faith Pitman and Katie Jemima Yeats-Brown, who shared the bronze in the -63kg category.

 

Netball and Rugby Sevens yielded no medals, although England’s women went agonisingly close in the former, as they were edged out 52-48 in the bronze medal match. The shooting saw a raft of medals from many of the disciplines. Mick Gault, Daniel Rivers, Rory Warlow, Kristian Callaghan and Kenneth Parr all finished third in their various events, while Aaron Heading notched a silver in the men’s trap. Rivers also went to finish top in the 50m rifle 3 positions category, with Steven Scott and Matthew French finished first and second in the Double Trap. The experienced pairing of David Luckman and Parag Patel picked up gold in the Queen’s prize pairs, before facing off in the individual event, where Luckman claimed gold to Patel’s bronze. The women also saw some success, with Caroline Povey securing bronze in the women’s trap and Charlotte Kenwood and Rachel Parish finishing either side of Shreyasi Singh on the rostrum.

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Matthew cemented his status as one of the greatest of all time
Image: www.worldsquash.com

 

The squash also saw much English success. Old rivals Nick Matthew and James Willstrop locked horns once more and it was a gripping match, with Matthew being pegged back twice before eventually coming through. Considering his injury problems, this result must rank incredibly highly for the Sheffield-born player, despite all the success he has enjoyed in his career. Matthew failed to repeat the trick with Adrian Grant as they lost out in a tense encounter with Australia’s Cameron Pilley and David Palmer. Daryl Selby and Willstrop lost to Pilley and Palmer in the semi-finals, but dusted themselves down to beat Scottish duo Alan Clyne and Harry Leitch. In the women’s singles, Laura Massaro did excellently to win a silver medal, but ultimately came up against a player who could stake a claim for being the greatest player ever to have played the game. Massaro then picked up another silver, beating fellow Englishwomen Emma Beddoes and Alison Waters in the last four, before falling short in the final against the Indian duo Dipika Pallikal and Joshana Chinappa. Beddoes and Waters eventually picked up bronze. Finally, Waters and Peter Barker reached the final of the mixed doubles. However, Palmer proved to be England’s nemesis once again as he and partner Rachel Grinham won 11-8, 11-10.

 

In swimming, Liam Tancock added to his medal collection with a bronze in the 50m backstroke. A host of English talent came of age, with Adam Peaty avenging his loss to Cameron van der Burgh in the 50m breaststroke to take the 100m breaststroke ahead of the South African legend. Ben Proud was another teenage who came of age, seeing off Chad Le Clos to win 50m butterfly gold before upsetting the Australian pair of Cameron McEvoy and James Magnussen in the 50m freestyle. Tancock repeated his bronze medal performance in the 100m backstroke, but was outdone by younger compatriot Chris Walker-Hebborn, who wrapped his first individual gold at a major championships. Other highlights included bronze for Adam Barrett in the 100m butterfly, bronze for Adam Willis in the 200m breaststroke (behind the superb Ross Murdoch of Scotland), and James Guy’s bronze in the 400m freestyle. The para-sport team also brought back medals, as Oliver Hynd stormed to victory in the 200m Individual Medley SM8 category, with Thomas Hamer winning silver in the 200m freestyle S14. England’s relay teams provided some joy with the men’s 4x100m and 4x400m freestyle taking bronze and gold respectively.

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Fran Halsall left her competitors trailing in her wake.
Image: Sky Sports

 

The female relay squads also acquitted themselves well, with the 4x100m freestyle and medley relay squads bringing back silver, and the 4x200m freestyle relay team adding a bronze. There were also some special individual performances on the women’s side, with Siobhan-Marie O’Connor one of the swimmers in that category. The 18 year-old was victorious in the 200m individual medley and also repeated the trick in the 100m butterfly. She also claimed the silver in the 200m freestyle. Fran Halsall had never quite shown the world what she was truly capable of until now. She won the 50m butterfly and then proceeded to defeat the Campbell sisters, Bronte and Cate, for a second gold and a second Games Record. Sophie Taylor was another one who tasted victory, taking the 100m breastroke by almost a second. 19 year-old Lauren Quigley was not fazed by the big occasion and picked up a silver in the 50m backstroke. Aimee Willmott was so near and yet so far as she finished second in both the 200m butterfly and the 400m individual medley. Molly Renshaw got on the podium with bronze in the 200m breaststroke, while in the 100m freestyle S8 category Stephanie Slater was beaten to gold by a World Record performance by Maddison Elliott.

 

In Table Tennis, England’s top singles player Liam Pitchford achieved arguably his best result to date with bronze in the men’s singles. Husband and wife Paul and Joanna Drinkhall edged out Tin-Tin Ho and Pitchford in a thrilling contest that saw the Drinkhalls go to 2-0, before being pegged back to 2-2. However, their greater experience told in the end, and they went home with the mixed doubles crown. Danny Reid and Kelly Sibley completed a clean sweep by taking the bronze. The men’s team won silver overall, losing to a classy Singapore.

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England’s triathlon quartet were a class apart
Image: Talksport

 

The usual suspects stood out in the men’s triathlon, with Alastair and Jonny Brownlee easing away from the field to take first and second. In the women’s race, a stunning late push from Jodie Stimpson saw her win gold, with Vicky Holland taking the bronze behind her. The four medallists then combined to dominate the team event.

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Zoe Smith delivered on her teenage promise to take top spot
Image: The Telegraph

 

Zoe Smith won her first championship title with a superb clean & jerk to take the women’s 58kg title. At the opposite end of the weight spectrum, Ben Watson picked up a bronze in the men’s 105kg. In the powerlifting competition, England also picked up titles in the men’s and women’s lightweight divisions, with Ali Jawad taking bronze and Natalie Silver claiming silver. Finally, England picked up a host of medals in the wrestling with Mike Grundy, Leon Rattigan and Chinu Singh all finishing third, while Leon’s wife Yana won silver in the women’s freestyle 48kg division. In the 55kg class, Louisa Porogovska also got on the podium, taking bronze.

 

These Games has been a success on many levels. It showcased the best of England’s young talent and also provided uplifting examples of athletes who have shown that age is no barrier to success. The competition had added excitement due to the fact that the host nation performed brilliant, picking up 19 golds and finishing fourth in the medals table. Lastly, the competition also showed that the event can capture the enthusiasm of all the nations competing, despite its detractors saying that its days as a fixture were numbered. Overall, Glasgow 2014 has been a resounding success.

Alex Bowmer

 

Featured image: Zimbio

 

 

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