Team Ballarat assembles in Glasgow for Commonwealth Games

Ballarat medal hope: Javelin thrower Kathryn Mitchell, pictured during an Australian Athletics pre-Commonwealth Games training camp at Gateshead International Stadium in England. 
PICTURE: Getty Images

Ballarat medal hope: Javelin thrower Kathryn Mitchell, pictured during an Australian Athletics pre-Commonwealth Games training camp at Gateshead International Stadium in England. PICTURE: Getty Images

KATHRYN Mitchell heads the Ballarat charge for medals at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Mitchell is ranked third in women’s javelin throwing in the Commonwealth.

Fellow Australian Kimberley Mickle is the hot favourite to take gold in the field event at the Games, which begin on Thursday.

Mickle is number two in the world behind Russian Mariya Abakumova and at her best should be head and shoulders above her rivals in Scotland.

However, Mitchell and South Africa’s Sunette Viljoen will be waiting to pounce on gold if the opportunity arises.

Mitchell is eighth in the world at the moment – one spot behind Viljoen. A former national champion, the 32-year-old Mitchell has taken her career to a new high over the past few years.

She threw a personal best of 66.10 metres in Adelaide in February this year, but more than that, she has developed into a proven big-time performer – being a finalist at the 2012 London Olympic Games and last year’s world championships.

Having grown up in Casterton, Mitchell first moved to Ballarat to finish her secondary schooling and develop her javelin throwing.

She spent several years in Ballarat before moving to Melbourne.

Mitchell, who has relocated back to Ballarat, will be throwing at her third Commonwealth Games and hopefully will have her first podium finish in the early hours of Thursday, July 31 (Australian Eastern Standard Time).

Middle-distance runner Collis Birmingham, lawn bowler Tim Slater and newcomer Jeff Tho (badminton) are the other Ballarat-based competitors in Glasgow.

Birmingham, in his second Commonwealth Games, is contesting the 1500 metres and 5000 metres.

While he has been Australia’s best performed middle-distance runner over the past 12 months, the multi-national champion and record-holder faces another huge task against the might of Kenyans.

Slater, who plays with Victoria in the Ballarat District Bowls Division, is making his Games debut in the para-lawn bowls competition.

Tho, who has moved to Ballarat in the past year to pursue a professional dentistry career after growing up in Bendigo and then studying in Melbourne, will represent Australia in men’s singles in badminton.

The Ballarat interest does not stop there, with “Team Ballarat” featuring other athletes who launched their sporting careers in the city or have spent time closely associated with Ballarat.

Lawn bowlers Matt Flapper and Brett Wilkie are Ballarat exports.

Flapper is now the Ocean Grove Bowls Club coach and still plays pennant in the Ballarat-Geelong premier league.

Wilkie has developed into one of Australia premier bowlers in Queensland.

One of Ballarat’s all-time great sportsmen, Russell Mark, will shoot in his last Commonwealth Games.

The Olympic gold medallist, who spent his formative years in the sport with Sebastopol Gun Club before moving to Hoppers Crossing, will again tackle the double trap event.

His wife and multiple Commonwealth Games gold medallist Lauryn will also shoot in the women’s skeet.

Once-Ballarat based, Olympian Victoria Mitchell makes her first Commonwealth Games appearance in eight years in the women’s 3000-metre steeplechase, while 1500-metre specialist Ryan Gregson from New South Wales has earnt a place in The Courier’s “Team Ballarat” after spending the summer in the city training with Collis Birmingham as part of the distance-running training regime known as the “Ballarat Project”.

david.brehaut@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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