Gavel / Best of Canberra takes a shot at the Games

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CANBERRA hockey player Andrew Charter was stunned when he was dropped from the Australian men’s team on the eve of the Commonwealth Games. It brought back memories of missing out on the London Olympics in 2012.

Tim Gavel.

The good thing about sport is that there is usually another chance to make the cut. And for Andrew? He won back his place in the Australian team for the Commonwealth Games currently underway on the Gold Coast.

This is just one of many back stories involving Canberra athletes taking part in the Games.

I can’t recall the number of times people have questioned me on the worth of the Commonwealth Games. I believe the Gold Coast Games have come at the perfect time with a possible growing perception that sportspeople have lost sight of the essence of sport. It is not always about winning at all costs or about how much money is to be made.

The Commonwealth Games offers a prime example of sportspeople doing it for the right reasons; most competitors don’t get paid a great deal, with many combining study or work with training and competition.

Which is why it’s worth providing some background to Canberra athletes involved in the Games:

  • Sprinter Mel Breen has had issues in seeking recognition from Athletics Australia. She is the current national record holder in the 100 metres, she has battled injury and, at times, officialdom to make it to the Games in one of the most competitive events in world sport.
  • Swimmer Ben Treffers wasn’t sure if he was going to continue in the sport a couple of years ago. It took a move to the Gold Coast from his base in Canberra to reinvigorate his love of swimming. Ben is out to defend his 50-metres backstroke title won in Glasgow.
  • Keely Small is only 16 years of age and still at school. The day after she was selected for the 800 metres on the Gold Coast Games’ track she was back on the school bus.
  • Para athlete Jayden Sawyer is the world record holder in the cerebral palsy javelin, but there are a limited number of events for para athletes at the Games and his category in the javelin wasn’t on the program. No problems. He changed throwing disciplines and has qualified to compete in the shot put.
  • Hockeyroo Edwina Bone missed six months last year with a knee injury. A setback like that can either make you stronger or finish your career. Thankfully for Edwina, it was the former and she is back in the team for the Commonwealth Games.
  • Squash player Christine Nunn joined the pro tour in 2008 and went six years without winning a title. Fast forward to 2018 and she is in the form of her life winning the Australian Open title and selection in the Games’ team.
  • Cyclist Bec Wiasak must have been starting to think her chance to compete in the Commonwealth Games was running out of time. Bec won the individual world title on the track but the focus has been on the team event. She will be competing in her first Games.
  • Mountain bikers Dan and Rebecca McConnell had to self fund their campaign after losing their major sponsor. Now back with a new sponsor they head into the Games with a certain amount of confidence and self-belief.
  • Road cyclist Chloe Hosking launched a campaign to win selection in the world championship team last year. If nothing else, it has provided motivation as she prepares for the road race with fellow Canberra cyclist Gracie Elvin.
  • Personal trainer Nick Verreynne originally missed selection in the wrestling team but received an 11th-hour call up after another wrestler pulled out.
  • Badminton player Anthony Joe missed out on the London Olympics because of injury. Coached by his father Anthony, he has made the team heading for the Gold Coast.

These are just snapshots of some of the Canberra athletes representing Australia in the Commonwealth Games. Pride in wearing the Australian uniform is evident and there is no talk of contracts or their individual “brand”.

This is why we should embrace the Commonwealth Games!


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Tim Gavel
Journalist and ABC sports broadcaster

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