The opening ceremony of the 20th Commonwealth Games is set to take place this evening, 23rd July, with the Games running until the 3rd of August 2014 in Glasgow.
So what are some of the defining achievements in the Commonwealth Games? It’s worth rounding up some of the key records and figures associated with different events. Like the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games is capable of producing some classic moments for British and international athletes, which can be immortalised in the media and referred to each year when the event takes place.
The Commonwealth Games have been held since 1930, and rank alongside the Olympics and the Asian Games as one of the most high-profile athletic competitions in the world. The Games developed around countries that have historically been part of the British Commonwealth, including countries such as Canada and Australia which also do well at the Olympics. Recent Games have been held in Delhi in 2010, while Australia is set to host the competition after Glasgow in 2018. Unlike the Olympics, Britain is broken up into individual countries England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales for the Commonwealth Games.
In terms of major achievements and records in track events, the 100m record is held by Ato Boldon of Trinidad and Tobago, who ran the race in the 1998 games in Kuala Lumpur in just 9.88 seconds. The 200m sprint record, by comparison, is held by Frankie Fredericks of Namibia, with the UK having established its own success through Iwan Thomas of Wales, the current record holder for the 400m. Boldon’s 100m was notable for defeating the previous record held by England’s Linford Christie.
For women’s track events, Debbie Ferguson of the Bahamas deserves special mention for the Commonwealth records she achieved in the 100m and 200m in 2002, with the latter record tied with Merlene Ottey of Jamaica. Amantle Montsho of Botswana holds the record for the fastest time in the 400m, while over longer distances, Paula Radcliffe is still the record holder for the 5000m, and Lisa Martin of Australia the holder for the marathon.
Men’s long distance achievements are dominated by a combination of British and international runners, with Steve Cram holding the record for the 800m. Other records include 5000 and 1000m event successes by Kenyans such as Augustine Choge and Wilberforce Talei, while the marathon record holder is Ian Thompson of England. Thompson achieved his success in 1974, and although he was also impressive in European competition, struggled to repeat his performance at the 1976 Olympic Games.
For the hurdles, few athletes have come close to the record-breaking performances of Colin Jackson of Wales, who dominated the 110m round of the competition, and was one of the UK’s top performers at athletics events from the 1980s to the 2000s. Louis van Zyl of South Africa did manage, however, to collect a 400m medal in 2006 that has yet to be beaten.
In field events, UK athletes have provided excellent competition throughout the history of the Games. While Clarence Saunders of Bermuda holds the men’s high jump record of 2.36m, Steven Hooker the pole vault, and Yusuf Alli the long jump, Jonathan Edwards of England was one of the undisputed champions of the triple jump during his involvement in the Games. Other successful athletes in field events include Dylan Armstrong with the shot put, Frantz Kruger of South Africa with the discus, and Marius Corbett of South Africa in the modern javelin competition.
Women’s track and field events have featured notable success stories such as Brigitte Foster-Hylton of Jamaica, a record holder in the 100m, as well Jana Pittman, holder of the record for the 400m. Other major achievements have included Commonwealth Games records by Hestrie Cloete of South Africa in the high jump, Ashia Hansen of England in the triple jump, and Bronwyn Thompson of Australia in the long jump. In multi-event competition, Jane Flemming of Australia’s record continues to stand for the heptathlon, and Emma Snowsill of Australia in the triathlon.
One of the most significant all-round performers and arguably one of the best known athletes in the Commonwealth Games was England’s Daley Thompson, who dominated the decathlon in the 1980s, a record he extended to the European Championships. In 1986, Thompson won gold with 500 more points than his nearest rival.
Achievements in Other Events
Away from high profile track and field events, the Commonwealth Games has featured a wide range of events that, while not held at every Games, have featured some notable success stories. Did you know for instance, that cycling and swimming are included in the Commonwealth Games and it’s not all about athletics field and track? In cycling, Australia have the most medals, followed by England and New Zealand. In swimming, Brent Hayden of Canada holds records for the 50m and 100m freestyle, while Ian Thorpe of Australia is the Commonwealth record holder in the 200m and 400m. Other notable performers include Libby Lenton, record holder in the 50m and 100m, and Rebecca Adlington, whose 400m freestyle time of 4.05.68, set in Delhi in 2010, will be challenged at this year’s event.
Individual Feats and Stars
There have been some unusual individual feats across the history of the Commonwealth Games, some of which have arguably not received the level of attention they might deserve. Filbert Bayi of Tanzania, for example, famously won the 1500m in New Zealand in 1974 by adopting a strategy where, rather than pacing himself and then speeding up, he raced the entire track, setting a course record that still hasn’t been beaten.
Some of the more notable names and achievements in the history of the Commonwealth Games include Mary Peters, an all-round athlete and Olympian who was one of the leading female performers at the Games for Northern Ireland from 1958 to 1974, winning medals in the pentathlon and shot put. Kenya’s Henry Rono was also one of the most consistent record breakers of the 1970s, while Ian Thorpe’s swimming achievements at a young age at the Commonwealth Games in 2002 and 2006 bookended a period of remarkable dominance by the Australian at the Olympics.