Commonwealth Games 2014: Sporting experts on the events you should look out for

From swimming to table tennis, Mark Foster to Gabby Logan, here are the events famous faces in sport think you should be tuning in for

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Commonwealth Games 2014: Sporting experts on the events you should look out for
Written By
James Gill

Not sure where to start with this year's Glasgow-based Commonwealth Games? Our team of BBC experts tells you who should be watching...


Aquatics

Mark Foster

The two-time commonwealth gold medallist on the swimming:

Michael Jamieson is the Scottish star in the pool and number one in the world. The guy that beat him in the Olympics is Hungarian, so there’s no threat from him in the Commonwealth Games. This is Michael’s home pool, and on the first night of the Games he’ll be going for gold and a possible world record in the 200m breaststroke. What a start to the Games that would be.

Tollcross Swimming Centre, the location for the swimming in Glasgow, 
has been used for many years. I’ve swum there plenty of times, and it’s certainly smaller than many Olympic venues. The capacity at Tollcross is about 2,000, rising to about 5,000 during the Games. When we competed in Melbourne in 2006 the venue held 10,000. Then again, swimming in Australia is huge, and they will be bringing another strong team this year. But if there is any advantage in using a “home pool”, our athletes will have it. They know the facilities, they will feel relaxed, and they won’t feel quite so daunted by the “cosiness” of it.

Leon Taylor

The Commonwealth silver and bronze medallist on the diving

Tom Daley is in very good shape for this year’s Games. He’s injury-free, he’s had a really good past few months and it’s starting to show in his form. I worked with Tom on Splash!, and noticed straight after he made his announcement in December [that he was in a relationship with a man] that he was in a much better place.

It must have had an impact on his frame of mind, being able to be himself and spend time with his partner Lance Black without worrying about being “spotted”. But this isn’t just the Tom Daley show. Grace Reid from Scotland went to her first Commonwealth Games four years ago when she was just 14, and this year she will have massive home support.


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Athletics

Steve Cram

Three-time Commonwealth gold medalist

I get asked a lot about how important it is that Mo Farah has decided to race both the 5,000m and 10,000m in Glasgow, but we have to be careful when we talk about this. You have to remember he is an individual athlete. Like all the athletes competing this year, Mo plans his career to get the best out of himself. While athletes do care about the health of the competi- tion, in the end it’s about him.

I was always quietly confident Mo would run. I just think he didn’t want to commit until after the London Marathon was over, because that distance can do all sorts of things to your body. Once he committed, he was bound to do both events. That’s the type of guy he is; he wants to show that he’s the best. The fact he’s there will be great for Glasgow, but Mo won’t thank you for saying that if he gets beat! He’s chosen both events because he believes he can win them both – no other reason.


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Badminton

Gail Emms

Two-time Commonwealth gold medallist

Badminton is the fastest racket sport. I used to be able to smash a shuttlecock at over 150mph, faster than Andy Murray can serve. In Britain it’s seen as a hobby sport, but there’s another far more competitive side to it, and I hope people will see that in Glasgow. 
Chris and Gabby Adcock are the mixed doubles pair representing England. They’re married too: my badminton partner Nathan and I didn’t go that far! They’re number five in the world.
 There’s also Scotland’s Imogen Bankier and Robert Blair. The last time they played Chris and Gabby, Imogen and Rob won. I’m hoping for an England v Scotland mixed doubles final. That would be a match to tune in for.


Boxing

Barry McGuigan

Commonwealth gold medallist and former WBA champion

The strong nations are the home nations. Canada, India and some of the African nations could throw some surprises, but the best boxers are all here. Light flyweight Paddy Barnes from Northern Ireland stands out as a potential star, as does heavyweight Steven Ward. Fred Evans and Andrew Selby will be Wales’s lead hopes, while Scotland have a good lightweight called Josh Taylor. England’s Joe Joyce, a 6ft 6in kid from [London club] Earlsfield, is one to look out for – he celebrates his wins with a back flip.

Nicola Adams has been an incredible flag-bearer for women’s boxing: she’ll be back again in Glasgow, while Northern Ireland have their own star in Michaela Walsh. Women’s boxing was a big hit in London 2012, and its first appearance at a Commonwealth Games is bound to be a success story too.


Cycling

Chris Boardman

Three-time Commonwealth gold medallist

The Commonwealth Games are a curiosity, something unique to the British psyche and the nations who participate. Where else would you see the Isle of Man competing against the rest of the world? Yet this tiny little island is a hotbed of cycling talent this year. Sadly Mark Cavendish won’t be appearing at this year’s Games after his injury in the opening stage of the Tour de France, but Peter Kennaugh has come on leaps and bounds since the last Commonwealth Games on both road and track. He is an obvious candidate for Manx gold.

You may think the Commonwealth Games don’t hold much attraction for Bradley Wiggins. But he’s been left out of the Tour team, so Glasgow has clearly piqued his interest. If he chooses to apply himself to any of the disciplines, he will be one of the front riders.

The fact that all the home nations are split up makes the racing more interesting. On the track, it dilutes a settled GB team – the nations they are competing against don’t have that problem. Australia are the most obvious example of that: a very strong track team all riding together. With the GB team split up, our chances of gold are reduced in anything but individual events.


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Hockey

Gabby Logan

BBC Sport presenter since 2007, covered London 2012

Team sports are a big part of these Games, and I think they hold a big appeal for spectators wanting to get a piece of the action. Hockey goes on for the whole two weeks, so we’ll be dropping in regularly to follow what’s happening.

Hockey, unlike netball, is an Olympic sport as well, but even so there’s not much coverage of it beyond the Commonwealth Games and Olympics, even though GB’s women won bronze in London. These are sports that we all play at school, but don’t usually carry on with afterwards. The teams this year will show that there is life in the sport beyond the sixth form.


Judo

Kate Howey

Lead development coach for British Judo

There are three ways of winning judo: in layman’s terms either you throw your opponent, strangle them or hold them down. Every part of your body is working towards those moves. It’s a very unpredictable sport – it’s a combination of skill, strength and surprise that will turn the opponent over.

That’s the scary thing when you’re competing: the underdog always has a chance. Our athletes could go in as favourites but get caught out by someone they’ve never seen before, particularly as there are lesser-known countries competing. People might recognise silver medallist Gemma Gibbons from London 2012, but she’s had a tough time coming back from injury. There’s another woman in her category, Natalie Powell from Wales, who has jumped ahead of her in the world rankings. That’s the fight I’m most looking forward to.


Gymnastics

Christine Still

Gymnastics commentator for the BBC since 1996

I cried when Becky Downie won a European Championships gold medal in May this year. If you’re not a follower of gymnastics, you might not understand why. Becky is 22, and went to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 as a 16-year-old, but missed out on London 2012. She carried on regardless, and had just given the performance of her career on the uneven bars. As she landed her dismount and turned to the camera, the tears were flooding down her face in relief. I just hope she can do it again in Glasgow.


Lawn Bowls

Dougie Vipond

Sports presenter for BBC Scotland, host of Sportscene

Don’t know the bowls! It’s a fab sport. Scotland have a real chance of winning lots of medals in the bowls, so I hope people take to the sport. We have won gold medals in the past with Alex Marshall and his pairs partner Paul Foster. Marshall will be going for his third Commonwealth gold, while Foster is world number one.

It’s a big sport up in Scotland, and there are certainly a lot of chances from home medals. It’s like curling – you never think about it, but every four years you fall in love with it. When I was a student I used to miss lectures to go to play bowls, so I’ve got a soft spot for it.


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Rugby

John Inverdale

Sports presenter who has covered four Olympic Games

Rugby Sevens is going to transform the way rugby is perceived around the world. The Commonwealth Games will be a great tee-up before it becomes an Olympic sport for the first time in Rio in 2016.

The game’s fast, with just 14 minutes’ playing time. Watching New Zealand in particular will be a staggeringly brilliant spectacle. They won the London Sevens at Twickenham in May and will be favourites to take the title in Glasgow as their squad features three players who won gold in Delhi four years ago – that was their fourth successive Commonwealth Games gold medal, which tells you how good they are. They’re in the same pool as Scotland and will play them on the first Saturday of competition.

The only thing I’m disappointed about is that Fiji won’t be able to take part. The South Pacific nation has won the World Cup twice – in 1997 and 2005 – but are unable to compete in this year’s tournament, having been excluded from the draw. Aside from their absence, however, the competition will be an amazing spectacle at Ibrox Stadium, normally the home of Rangers.

In the next ten years I can see the balance of power between 15-a-side rugby and sevens changing in exactly the way Twenty20 and Test cricket has over the past few years. Are rugby authorities ready to deal with it? I’m not sure that they are.


Para-sport

Tanni Grey-Thompson

Winner of 11 Paralympic gold medals, six-time London Wheelchair Marathon winner

Glasgow will be the biggest Commonwealth Games yet for para-sport. As well as athletics, swimming, powerlifting and lawn bowls, there will be track cycling on the schedule for the first time. In total 22 medals are on offer, with great competition across the board.

The Commonwealth Games are one of the only major competitions where you can see able-bodied and para-sport athletes competing at the same time. You can’t do it with the Olympics and Paralympics – the Games would be too big – but with the Commonwealths the para-sport events slot in nicely.

David Weir, the quadruple gold-medal- winning wheelchair racer from London 2012, will be back on the track. He will be racing in the T54 1500m, probably his best event and tactically the most interesting. One of his biggest rivals, Kurt Fearnley, is Australian, so it will be a tough competition.

I’ve also got to mention English wheelchair racer Jade Jones, because my husband coaches her! She competed in London when she was just 16, making her one of the youngest athletes ever to make the British track team. She’s had a great season and could get a medal, although her classification is very strong: Canadian Diane Roy won the last Commonwealth race in Delhi, and there are three very strong Australians set to compete as well.


Netball

Hazel Irvine

BBC Sport presenter who has covered 13 Olympic Games

I’m genuinely excited about seeing netball get the exposure it deserves. The Commonwealth Games is one of the proper bona fide world championships. It was first included in 1998, but has quickly built up a special resonance for the competitors. To see the level of athleticism and dedication on show at this event, particularly from the antipodean countries, is incredible.

One of the best matches of any sport I’ve ever seen was the netball final in Delhi: New Zealand played Australia, which ended 66–64 to the New Zealanders. The most-capped international player ever, New Zealand’s Irene van Dyk, has since retired, so the competition is wide open again in Glasgow.


Shooting

Richard Dew

BBC Shooting commentator and broadcaster

There are three main shooting disciplines in Commonwealth competition. First are the small bore competitions, using air pistols and rifles. The key there is to keep your concentration over relatively short distances, 10–50m. It’s a very studied part of the sport. Then there’s the trap, the skeet and shotgun outdoors, which are very different for spectators: very loud, with lots of puffs of smoke as the shots hit the target.

Finally you have what is known as the Queen’s Pairs, the full bore, which is unique to the Commonwealth Games. Athletes fire over a range of distances, with both men and women competing together.

There are so many highlights, but look out for the McIntosh family. Shirley McIntosh is retired, but has more Commonwealth shooting medals than any other Scottish woman. Her husband Donald is Team Scotland’s shooting manager, and they have two daughters: the eldest, Jen, has three medals from Delhi 2010, and in Glasgow she will be competing against her sister, Seonaid.


Squash

Dan Walker

BBC Sport presenter and presenter of Football Focus

In Sheffield I live just down the road from a tennis and squash club. It also happens to be Nick Matthew’s home club – he is world champion and England’s number one. England also have the women’s world champion in Laura Massaro. Squash was denied the chance to become an Olympic sport after the International Olympic Committee voted instead to reinstate wrestling for the Rio Games in 2016. That makes the Commonwealth Games the best showcase squash has.


Table Tennis

Alan Cooke

Former Commonwealth champion and GB coach

Table tennis is the fastest reaction sport there is. The world record for the number of hits in one minute is 180 – three times every second – which gives you an idea of the speeds some of the players are hitting the ball. So the top players are also top athletes. They’re fit and strong, exercising in the gym as well as practising out on the table for between five and six hours a day. Singapore are the number one seed among Commonwealth nations; they have an incredibly strong team with three players in the top 20 in the world.

India and Nigeria are also strong, but the home nations could do well, too. We’ve had a very successful season this year – England’s number one, Liam Pitchford, reached a career-high world ranking of 53. Many of our players have played in Commonwealth Games before, but England’s Tin-Tin Ho, who is just 15 will be making her debut.


Triathlon

Matthew Pinsent

Four-time Olympic gold medallist and sports presenter

Swimming and athletics will always jump off the page as the box-office sports, but with rowing out of the picture in these Games I’ll be keeping a close eye on the triathlon. It’s been two years since we saw the Brownlee brothers at the peak of their powers in London, and it’s been a mixed bag for them since. They will be leading the English triathlon team, so it’s time to see if the course at Strathclyde Country Park is as good for Alistair and Jonny as the Olympic course was.


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Weightlifting

David Goldstrom

European Weightlifting Federation Director of TV

When you see men and women lifting twice their own body weight – and sometimes more! – it’s very apparent that this is a supreme test of athletic ability. It’s certainly a test of strength, but it’s also a mental test. People don’t under- stand how courageous you have to be to duck under a bar with hundreds of kilos above you. It’s not something to be taken lightly!

Commonwealth competition features two disciplines: the snatch, and the clean and jerk. The snatch is one explosive movement from the floor to above your head. The clean and jerk allows you to lift heavier weights, because it’s a two-phase movement. You take the bar from the floor to your shoulders, and then push the bar above your head.

Although it’s only one person on the stage, weightlifting is a team effort. Lifters will have up to three coaches working with them backstage. One of them will be focusing on the athlete, one of them will be checking out the board and keeping tabs on what weights are being lifted, and the third is looking at everybody else and trying to gauge what their next attempt will be.

The headline domestic match-up is between Zoe Smith of England and Michaela Breeze of Wales in the 58kg category. They will both be lifting something in the order of 120kg – twice their body weight. Michaela is making something of a comeback at 35 years of age. She was Commonwealth Games champion in Melbourne 2006, and has represented Great Britain at two Olympic Games. Her rival Zoe is just 20 years old, and the bronze medallist from Delhi 2010.


Wrestling

Trevor Hoskins

Assistant team leader at England Wrestling

Wrestling is a natural thing for kids to do. As we get older we forget how to do it! But that’s part of the reason why it’s interesting to watch: it’s fast-paced, athletic, very loud and entertaining, particularly for people who haven’t seen it before. Wrestling in the Commonwealth Games is very much freestyle: each athlete will have a favourite way of attacking, and will try to domi- nate over two three-minute rounds.

The ultimate way to win is the pin, holding your opponent down so they have both shoulders on the floor. Technical ability is one of the key parts of this sport, and athletes will try to complete a move with the minimum amount of strength. In competition you will wrestle three or four times a day, and it can be incredibly draining. Getting the job done without destroy- ing your stamina is key.

The major challengers in Commonwealth competition are India and Canada, with Nigeria bringing a very strong women’s team. The real big powers like Russia, Iran and the USA are missing, which gives British athletes a little bit more of a level playing field.

England’s team features Leon Rattigan and Oleksandr Madyarchyk, wrestlers who won medals in Delhi 2010. But most of the athletes from Britain have to balance training with work, and it’s a difficult juggling act. After London 2012 the funding of many sports got battered, and we unfortunately were one of them.


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