Olympic Games - Australia determined to retain Commonwealth Games crown

Australia, buffeted by a series of high-profile sporting failures, has boosted funding for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and demanded their athletes retain top spot in the medal standings.

Reuters
Olympic Games - Australia determined to retain Commonwealth Games crown
.

View photo

Australia's Kerryn McCann hugs Commonwealth Games chef de mission Steve Moneghetti (Reuters)

The proud sporting country has ruled the roost at the quadrennial Games for nearly two decades, topping the medals table since 1990 and keeping bragging rights over their former colonial masters.

The sporting balance of power has shifted firmly back to England and the home nations, however, with Team GB topping Australia in the medal counts at the last two Olympic Games, and other British teams dominating their traditional rivalries.

Australia's national rugby team were defeated 2-1 by the British and Irish Lions earlier this month, the touring team's first series win since 1997, and England's cricket team has heaped on more misery by taking a 2-0 lead in the ongoing Ashes test series.

The prospect of England, who compete separately from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland at the Commonwealths, reasserting their dominance in the Games they invented would be an unedifying prospect Down Under, but Australia chef de mission Steve Moneghetti was having none of it.

"Their best isn't better than ours, now if we perform at our best that will be good enough to top the medal tally and I'm looking forward to our athletes relishing that challenge," Moneghetti, wearing a kilt, told Reuters on Tuesday, one year out from Glasgow.

"We've got England obviously biting at our heels, but I'm really confident that our athletes will rise to the occasion.

"There's a great affinity, a great rivalry between Australia and the British countries so I reckon that's really going to athletes' perceptions, the way they want to perform."

Having won the marathon at the 1994 Vancouver Games and a bronze at Edinburgh in 1986 the last time England topped the medals table, Moneghetti is well-acquainted with the cyclical nature of sports.

The British teams, flush with success from the stunning performances of their athletes at the London Olympics and given a chance to strut in their own backyard, are likely to bring strong teams, he said, having brought low quality outfits to the shambolic 2010 Games in Delhi.

Glasgow is likely to offer Australia its toughest competition since the 1970s, and local sporting federations had been put on notice, according to Perry Crosswhite, the country's Commonwealth Games chief.

"I think it is important to maintain our dominance," he told Reuters at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre, where Australia's swimmers reaped their usual big harvest from the host pool at the 2006 Games.

"I think that the public expect us to always do well at the Commonwealth Games, and I think for some of our athletes who possibly didn't do as well at London as they wanted to, this is their opportunity to do well against a lot of the same athletes."

The expectations have been accompanied by more government funding, and Australia's Commonwealth Games federation has boosted its share of that by nearly 20 percent compared to the Delhi Games.

Former world champion discus thrower Dani Samuels pulled out of the Delhi Games because of fears over security but Crosswhite anticipated all the top Australians would be in Glasgow.

"We haven't had any indication that anyone's staying away, whether it's an operation or a medical treatment or something. Everybody's aiming for it," he said.

"The swimmers are all particularly committed to that. They've got the Pan Pacific (championships) three weeks after but the Commonwealth Games are their first objective," he added.

Delhi was marred by controversies ranging from crumbling infrastructure to the absence of high-profile athletes like sprinter Usain Bolt.

Glasgow would offer the Games movement fresh impetus, said Crosswhite, who called on the Jamaican to commit himself to competing.

"It's important for Usain Bolt. It's probably the only medal he hasn't won," he said. "Glasgow knows it, the Commonwealth Games all know it.

"There shouldn't be (such attention) for just one athlete, but it is because the media will just go ballistic if he doesn't turn up."

View comments (1)