The Commonwealth Games is a festival of blue-ribbon events we all love to watch, like the 100-meter sprint or the Aussies cleaning up in the pool, but it’s also a chance for niche sports to captivate and enthral.
Here’s a guide to some Australian athletes you might not have heard of – but will love by the end of the Games.
Australia has a couple of distinctive competitors this year – two women who have previously won a medal while competing for other countries.
- Eileen Cikamatana won Fiji’s first weightlifting gold four years ago, and after falling out with the national federation, she switched to Australia. She could become the first woman to win individual gold with two different countries.
- Charisma Amoe-Tarrant moved to Australia when she was 12 but won silver while representing her country of birth Nauru in 2018. She’s now in the green and gold and lifting for one better.
If you’re impressed by weightlifting, then you’ll love the version for athletes with a disability.
- queensland’s hani watson will compete in the women’s heavyweight division – following in the footsteps of dad Charlie, who was a bodybuilder.
- Perth’s Ben Wright is in the men’s heavyweight division, heading to his third Games.
- Rachel Grinham is squash royalty. She has eight Commonwealth Games medals, including two golds, from five Games. The 45-year-old is a former world number-one and has won four British Open Championships.
- teen wonders Finn Luu and Nicholas Lum are the two best junior men’s players in Australia, they’re doubles partners, and run a YouTube channel promoting the sport called Flickpong.
- The Para team is full of established talent — Ma Lin, Qian Yang and Lina Lee have all previously represented China, and they have a combined collection of 23 Paralympic medals.
Names like Simone Biles, Nadia Comeneci and Kohei Uchimura put artistic gymnastics on the map, but don’t forget its poetic sister – rhythmic gymnastics, where competitors become one with the ball, clubs, hoop, and ribbon.
- Alexandra Kiroi-Bogatyreva20, recently won five medals at the Australian Gymnastics Championships.
- Russian-born Lydia Iakovleva18, went to last year’s Tokyo Olympics, and in March became the first Australian to qualify for a final in a World Cup series event, in the ribbon.
- brothers Josh and Nathan Katz have judo running deep in their blood. They’re coached by their dad, Rob, who also coached their mum Kerrye, who represented Australia when judo was a demonstration sport at the Seoul 1988 Olympics.
- jake fehlberg is one of six Para lawn bowlers representing Australia. He’ll compete in the vision-impaired category, aiming to defend his gold from four years ago. While he can see using a monocular, he has a director who assists him too.
- Natasha Van Eldik is only 31, but is one of the GOATs in lawn bowls. She’s the first woman to win three Australian Open titles and has over 300 appearances for Australia. She won two gold medals in 2018.
Wrestling is one of the few sports Australia hasn’t dominated at the Commonwealth Games – in fact, it’s been 12 years since an Aussie last won a medal.
- Six wrestlers have the chance to change that in Birmingham, including Naomi deBruine. She only started in the sport five years ago, after growing up in judo. But when she it was omitted from the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games program, she switched to wrestling and hasn’t looked back.
Australia will send its second largest team ever to Birmingham, with 435 athletes. The opening ceremony is on Friday, July 29.