AUSTRALIAN sporting icons are being made on the Gold Coast.
For legends, like decorated wheelchair racer Kurt Fearnley, this is a fitting final chance to wear the green-and-gold and say farewell on a huge, multi-discipline stage on their own terms.
Commonwealth Games is where Australian chef de mission and Ballarat marathon man Steve Moneghetti got his big break. Beginnings and ends is what Moneghetti says the Games mean to him.
Each Games really is about introducing more Australians to our nation’s top athletes by sharing their stories.
Olympics might be the pinnacle, but they are once every four years. And four years is an incredibly long time in elite sporting ranks.
We are an incredibly successful and competitive nation on a world stage, but the Commonwealth Games allows our athletes to really make a mark on a different stage. This allows other athletes and sports to come to the fore and really should not be measured against the Olympics – these Games are different.
Commonwealth Games are about our identity.
This is not so much about the monarchy, despite the Games' origin and the Queen’s traditional message-in-a-baton.
This is about our sporting origins.
This is a multi-sport event featuring Commonwealth-specific sports like netball and lawn bowls. Ballarat has long had good representation in the latter with Glasgow men’s fours bronze medallist and Webbcona export Brett Wiilkie to be out on the Gold Coast greens.
Such disciplines are deep-seated in Australian sporting culture, stemming from English heritage, just like they are in other Commonwealth nations.
Commonwealth Games is the only chance we get to really celebrate this as one giant sports festival. (Although interestingly, quintessential Commonwealth game cricket has only featured once, Kuala Lumpur 1998).
For most Australians, the only time we really take a good, involved look at what athletes are doing outside our primary sporting appetite.
Commonwealth Games is a chance for athletes to share their stories, their triumphs and hurdles, and what it takes to be at the top in their chosen sport. Team Ballarat will be out in force, our homegrown heroes and those who have built their games up in our city.
Javelin thrower Kathryn Mitchell is a massive medal chance. Now in her fourth Commonwealth Games, Mitchell threw two national records in the summer, one of which was seventh on the (modern) all-time list and the world’s longest throw for more than four years.
Cyclist Shannon Malseed captured the national women’s road race crown in Buninyong in January to automatically qualify for the Gold Coast. The 23-year-old will proudly wear Australian champion markings.
Damascus College year 12 student Sam Rizzo will make his Games debut. Many have followed the emerging wheelchair racer’s journey and fundraising efforts to reach world juniors last year.
This is their big chance to shine and that is definitely something we should be cheering about.