Friday, March 31, 2006

Armchair Review Of Melbourne 2006

From the 15th to the 26th of March, Melbourne hosted the 18th Commonwealth Games. This is where England take on the rest of the Commonwealth at all the events that Australia couldn’t be bothered to enter.

They were up against some of the nations not known for their sporting prowess, such as Norfolk Island (I didn’t realise Norfolk was an Island), Tuvalu, Nuie, and Wales.

Tuvalu is more famous for owning the dot tv internet name, and The Niue Island’s were famous for being the first to celebrate the new millennium and slightly less famous for being the first to celebrate any other year.

4,500 athletes from 71 Nations took part in 16 sports over 11 days for 245 gold medals. The Queen opened the Games during the ceremony in the Melbourne Cricket Ground:

Here is RaW Sport’s comprehensive review of the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games.

Starting with…

Scotland were the shock performers in the pool. They took 6 gold medals with Catlin McClatchey, Gregor Tait and David Carry with 2 wins each. The 3 silver and 3 bronze medals meant this was the most successful sport for the nation at a single Commie Games.
Australia without injured Ian ‘Thorpedo’ Thorpe and Grant ‘Hackety’ Hackett still took 19 golds, 18 silver and 17 bronze medals. They broke 4 world records including Leisel Jones in the women's 100m breaststroke by 7 tenths of a second on the way to claiming her 5 golds.
England picked up 23 medals including 8 golds, with Christopher Cook winning 2 breaststroke titles.

The darling of the diving was cuddly Canadian Alexandre Despatie, who took 3 golds and a bronze. He won his first Commonwealth gold 8 years ago aged 13 and since 1999 has been an ambassador for McDonalds.

England Teenagers Louis Smith and Imogen Cairns both won gold in their individual apparatus events. Smith won the men's pommel horse while Cairns came top after her two vaults. Canada took the men’s team Gold and Australia the women’s.

All six gold medals all went to Canada, and more specifically they were all won by 19-year-old Alexandra Orlando. She won the team and individual events along with the rope, ball, clubs and ribbon disciplines. She matched Swimmer Ian Thorpe’s record of 6 gold medals by one athlete in a single Games.

Mark Cavendish won a first ever track cycling gold for the Isle of Man in the men's scratch race. It was the Island’s first gold for 40 years. England picked up 3 golds winning the Team Pursuit, Vicky Pendleton won the Women’s Sprint and Paul Manning the Individual Pursuit. Scotland edged out England in the Team Sprint by 2 hundredths of a second to take their only gold.

Liam Killeen came back from 90 seconds behind to win the Men’s mountain bike race for England. Canada’s Marie-Helene Premont won the women’s race, and her biggest opposition was a stray kangaroo that she narrowly avoided colliding with as it crossed her path after breaching the tight Melbourne security.

Some Aussies won this, possibly Joel from Neighbours.

The Hockeyroo’s of Australia won both men’s and women’s golds. England’s women beat the Kiwi’s for the bronze with the match going to a penalty stroke out. Pakistan finished second in the men’s and included a player by the name Tariq Aziz, surely not the former deputy president of Iraq?

A thrilling contest over two days saw a lot of young talent on show. England and Newcastle’s Matthew Tait, aged 20, was top points scorer with 9 tries, but it was New Zealand who won the gold for the third time running beating a worn out England in the final.

Fiji took the bronze over Australia but the match will be remembered for a sickening incident involving Australian back-row Scott Fava. He hit the floor heavily after bouncing off a Fiji player and started convulsing on the pitch. He was taken the Royal Melbourne Hospital but should make a full recovery.

In both the Men’s and Women’s competitions Australia beat New Zealand in the final with England taking the bronze.

New Zealand won the final beating Australia but England won a dramatic bronze medal play-off with Pamela Cookey scoring the winning net to give them a 53-52 victory over Jamaica.

Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms were awesome in winning the mixed doubles. They only dropped one set in the whole tournament. Tracey Hallam won England the women’s singles title beating Malaysian Moo Choo Wong in the final – the same player she lost to during the final of the team event.

England's Peter Nicol and Lee Beachill retained their squash doubles title after an epic 2 and three quarter hour battle against the same Australian team they beat 4 years ago. They eventually won in 4 sets.

Nicol, who retires this year, also took the men’s singles title with his double’s partner Beachill taking bronze.

Singapore won the most golds with 4 titles and England had to settle for just a silver in the men’s doubles. However wheelchair table tennisians Susan Gilroy and Catherine Mitton took the gold and bronze respectively.

Is really boring.

England won 5 golds including one for Frankie Gavin in the lightweight category; he is hotly tipped to take over the Olympic mantle of the now professional Amir Khan. David Price took the super heavyweight title winning every round by causing the referee to stop the fight. In his semi-final against Varghese Johnson of India he was knocked down 3 times and then came back to stop his opponent just 12 seconds from the end. In fairness the referee, who looked a bit like Uriah Rennie, should have stopped it sooner and caused the BBC commentator to call him an “incompetent wasock”.

More memorable quotes came for Mauritian silver medallist Louis Julie in the Bantamweight division. He was described as an “irritating little devil”, “highly illegal” and “in need of a good smack round the chops” during his quarterfinal match against Matthew Edmonds of Wales.

Scotland’s only gold came for Kenneth Anderson in the Light heavyweight category.

Is Pointless.

Lots of medals here… In fact 15 for England’s Mick Gault who became the most successful British Commonwealthian overtaking swimmer Karen Pickering’s record of 13 medals.

The Australians had 3 separate competitors called Bruce. Their team meetings probably sounded a bit like this… “G’day Bruce, G’day Bruce, Say G’day to Bruce, Bruce”.

England’s 53 year old Pinky Le Grelle took the bronze in the Women’s Skeet and Guyana’s flag bearer Ransford Goodluck could only finish ninth in the full bore rifle-shooting event.

There was disappointment for British male sprinters failing to take a single medal in the 100, 200 or relays. Mark Lewis Francis was disqualified for false starting in his 100m semi-final. It was eventually won by Jamaican world record holder Asafa Powell jogging home to win the title in a time of 10.03 seconds. His teammates didn’t do too bad either with Jamaica taking 10 athletics golds including both men and women’s 100, 200, sprint relays and hurdles.

One of the performances of the Games came from England’s Christine Ohuruogu in the 400m. She won gold beating World and Olympic Champion Tonique Williams-Darling of the Bahamas.

On the same night England's Lisa Dobriskey also caused an upset with gold in the 1500m taking over the title Kelly Holmes won in Manchester. Wales’ Hayley Tullett came third.

One of the great characters of the Games was decathlete Dean Macey, who took gold while battling against his hamstring injury that caused him to miss training for the 3 weeks before the Games. He had to produce a superb 1500 to overturn a 37-point deficit going into the final event. He said later “My body kills but I couldn't care less. Melbourne's not going to know what's hit it. We're going to rip it up and I'm going to get lashed, truly lashed. I deserve it, don't you think?"

The following day Deano’s multi eventer compatriot Kelly Sotherton took the Heptathlon gold in style with fellow English, Jessica Ennis taking bronze at her first major senior games. Incidentally her new personal best high jump of 1.91m would have been good enough for gold in that event.

That event was won by South African Anika Smith, but controversy as Wales’ Julie Crane was denied her final attempt when she slipped on the run up and was adjudged to have crossed the bar line before pulling out of the jump. Crane had to settle for creditable silver.

This occurred only a day after England’s Martyn Bernard was refused his final jump in the men’s high jump. His marker was moved by eventual winner and Nwanku Kanu look-alike Mark Boswell during the Canadians winning jump. Bernard too had to settle for silver.

Other significant performances include a win from home favourite Jana Pitman who set a new Games record in retaining her 400m hurdles event ahead of England’s Natasha Danvers-Smith and Scotland’s Lee McConnell.

Some other notable names were Ghana’s long jump winner Ignisious Gaisah and New Zealand Shot Put Champion Valerie Vili but my personal favourite was Indian Long Jumper Anju Bobby George who finished 6th in her event.

On the final day Philips Idowo comfortably won the men’s triple jump and Nick Neiland won the Javelin being the only athlete to throw over 80 metres.

In the 4x100m relay England’s men failed to get the baton round in the semi-finals and calls for them to give up and get day jobs have been heard across the country. So long as this doesn’t involve holding things they’ll be OK.

England’s women took an admirable silver in their sprint relay and the 4x400 metres team looked to have gone one better by winning their final after the Jamaican team dropped their baton while leading. England were later scandalously disqualified for swapping positions on the second changeover after being invited to do so by the Australian athlete. It was then the Aussies who lodged a complaint. Hmmm. After their appeals were turned down Australia received their undeserved gold medals.

So to wrap things up, Australia finished well clear at the top of the medals table with 84 golds in all. England were second with 36 golds and Canada third with 26.

Scotland came 6th with 11 golds, Wales with 3 golds were 13th, The Isle of Man 19th and Northern Ireland 24th with just 2 silver.

Prince Edward formally closed the Games at a ceremony that included 1000 dancing Dame Edna Everage look-alikes and the baton was handed over to New Delhi, India for 2010.


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