The opening day of the Commonwealth Games is shaping up to be a big one, with some of Australia’s biggest hopes for medals coming into play.
From the pool to the cricket pitch, the Australian team will be looking to make a first impression in Birmingham.
CANADIAN POOL PARTY
A young woman on a mission? Or a glutton for punishment?
Rising Canadian swimming sensation Summer McIntosh could be both. If the experts are right, the 15-year-old is on her way to becoming the next big figure in women’s swimming – even if that means kicking the gate at Australia’s Golden Girls pool party.
McIntosh’s mother, Jill Horsted, from a family of swimmers, competed for Canada at the Los Angeles Olympics, and her teenage daughter is already so highly regarded in the sport that Australian swimwear manufacturer Funkita has signed her as a global ambassador. McIntosh’s best performances are yet to come, but she’s already made a huge splash in the sport, overtaking Ariarna Titmus and Cathy Ledecky at the Tokyo Olympics when she was 14 years old.
She just won two individual gold medals at the World Championships last month – all before she was old enough to get a driver’s license – and is about to take the plunge at the Commonwealth Games.
Her clash with Titmus in the 400m freestyle turns into one of Birmingham’s biggest blockbuster races. Titmus has already beaten McIntosh once – and easily – by nearly six seconds in Tokyo when she was busy battling Ledecky for the gold.
It’s impressive that “Arnie” improved her best time by 0.19 seconds last year and set Ledecky’s world record, but it’s not the American that poses her biggest future threat; This is a pint-sized Canadian who has gained more than three seconds from her best time in the last 12 months and is fast approaching. In an exclusive interview, McIntosh revealed that she learned a lot from watching races against Titmus and was now better prepared.
“I’m just really excited to be racing with her again as it’s been a long time since the Olympics and I was obviously pretty far behind, so it wasn’t a great race.
CONDOM ATHLETES WARNING COMM GAMES
Stock up on sunscreen, hats and condoms – and be careful of monkeypox in Birmingham 2022.
This is the UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) advice to the tens of thousands of Commonwealth Games attendees.
The UKHSA warns of the possible spread of infections in the city, as well as sexually transmitted diseases and the effects of hot weather combined with excessive drinking.
OPENING CEREMONY SUMMARY: ENGLAND’S MESSAGE FOR INCLUSION
With the weather expected to be sunny and hot during the Games, Karyn Cox, UKHSA West Midlands health consultant, advises people to stay hydrated and practice safer sex.
“The Met Office is predicting some hot weeks during the Games, so we all need to put on sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, look for shade during the hottest part of the day (11:00 to 15:00) and stay hydrated. .
“When so many people come together to watch the Games and enjoy the festivities taking place across the region, there is an increased risk of infections spreading, whether it be an intestinal infection that can be spread due to poor hand hygiene, or infections, including COVID-19.
“In both cases, it is best to stay at home if you are sick. Also, it is advisable that you be up to date with your routine vaccinations such as MMR, MenACWY, and COVID-19 before mixing with more people.
“With a festive atmosphere and a large number of people visiting the region, it is very important to practice safe sex in order to prevent the possible spread of sexually transmitted infections. So remember to use condoms, and if you’ve had unprotected sex, get tested for STIs.
“While monkeypox is not an STI, it can be transmitted through close physical contact, so watch for any symptoms and contact a sexual health clinic if you suspect you may have this or any sexually transmitted infection.”
HOW ARE YOU? SEE THE FULL COMMUNICATION GAME SCHEDULE HERE
HOST COUNTRY WARNING FOR AUSTRALIA
The game is on, England.
In Birmingham, there may be 72 countries at the Commonwealth Games, but the main event is a rivalry between two famous countries.
England fired the first shot this week when mission chief Mark England said their number one priority was to finish ahead of Australia in the medal tally.
But with the Aussies forecasting over 80 medals in the pool alone, it will be a tough task.
At the last Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in 2018, host nation Australia won the Battle of the Ashes with 198 medals, including 80 gold, compared to England’s 136 gongs, of which 45 were gold.
“Our goal is to be top of the medal table,” said Mark England, head chef for the England team. “That’s what we’re here for.
“It will be a pretty good arm wrestling with Australia. Everyone wants to come to the host country and do everything possible against them.
“But we have 429 athletes and 500 support staff who absolutely want to top the medal table – and we have a country that wants that too. We’re going to give him everything.
“I can’t say where we will be in two weeks because the sport is unpredictable.
“But everything we could do to support the athletes is already in the game.”
For the first time in the England team, there are more women than men – from 226 to 203, as well as 67 para-athletes.
Birmingham 2022 is the biggest multi-sport event in this country since London 2012.
Australian chef Petria Thomas says the team was determined to finish at number one.
“I think, you know, we made no secret of the fact that we wanted to finish first on the medal list,” she said.
“We had very strong Commonwealth Games at home on the Gold Coast, but we are away from home and when you are away it is always harder. And we are also on English native soil.
“Therefore, we are well aware that it will be a struggle, but I think that the athletes will compete with such an attitude that they will fight for every result.
“Hopefully we can give him a good crack and take first place again.”
Originally published as Commonwealth Games Day 1 Live: Latest News, Scores and Topics from Birmingham