More than 300 Canadian athletes will compete in the 2017 Commonwealth Games. Winning a medal at the games is considered very prestigious and good preparation for the Olympics. Details about each sport and the major competitors are given.
For many of the nearly 300 Canadian athletes taking part, the Commonwealth Games are the most important competition of the year. More immediate, victory in Victoria brings Commonwealth bragging rights. Beyond that, the Games are an important stepping stone to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, giving younger athletes a taste of top-rung international competition and enabling coaches to assess their talent heading into next year’s Olympic qualifying events. “Everything we’re doing is ultimately focused on getting us ready for the Olympic qualifying meet in Sabae, Japan, next year,” says Bill Houldsworth, director general of the Canadian Gymnastics Federation. “Because of that, these Games are an enormously important part of our high-performance program.”
Aside from the competitive importance, Canada’s athletes view the Commonwealth Games as a rare opportunity to perform before a large home audience. Many of the sports contested in Victoria have low profiles in Canada except during the Olympics, and others, such as lawn bowling, have almost no profile at all. But that should change over the next two weeks: CBC has planned more than 90 hours of television coverage. Middle-distance runner Angela Chalmers, a 30-year-old Victoria resident, knows the joy of Commonwealth gold, having won both the 1,500-m and 3,000-m titles in Auckland in 1990. But winning at home, she says, would be so much sweeter. “Having the Commonwealth Games here in Victoria has been a real motivation for me to keep running,” said Chalmers, bronze medallist in the 3,000 m at the 1992 Summer Olympics. “Being able to compete in a big meet at home – that’s something that has never happened before in my career.”
Athletics (Centennial Stadium, University of Victoria):
Canada’s best bet to derail England’s Olympic champion, Linford Christie, in the 100-m sprint is Montreal’s Bruny Surin, who has been resting an injured knee in hopes of being able to run in Victoria. (Surin’s teammate, Donovan Bailey of Oakville, Ont., who recorded Canada’s best times this season, was left off the 100-m team because a case of the flu kept him from competing in the qualifying meet.) Christie, meanwhile, appeared beatable even when he won his third European championship recently with a time of 10.14 well within Surin’s range. Aside from the sprints, Canada has potential track medallists in Graham Hood from Burlington, Ont., and Kevin Sullivan of Branford, Ont., in the 1,500 m, Graeme Fell from Vancouver in the steeplechase, and middle-distance star Chalmers, who plans to compete only in the 3,000-m event this time. As well, Commonwealth champion Michael Smith from Kenora, Ont., is back to defend his title in the two-day decathlon. Gold-medal favorites among the visitors include Welsh hurdler Colin Jackson and a raft of Kenyan distance runners, including Rich Chelimo in the 10,000 m and Paul Bitok at 5,000 m.
Badminton (McKinnon Gymnasium, UVic):
A home-team victory on the court would be an upset, although, in men’s doubles, Ottawa residents Mike Bitten and Bryan Blanshard could challenge reigning Olympic bronze medallists Jalani and Razif Sidek of Malaysia. Denyse Julien of Calgary leads the Canadian women’s team.
Boxing (Archie Browning Sports Centre, Esquimalt):
At Auckland in 1990, Canada won the team title with one gold, five silver, and two bronze medals. Aiming for nothing less, the current team is led by Calgary’s Dale Brown (81-kg division), a veteran of 202 bouts, and Jamie Pagendam (63.5 kg) of St. Catharines, Ont., an Olympian in 1988 who is making a comeback. Canadian team officials anticipate strong challenges from Nigeria, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Northern Ireland and Australia.
Cycling (Velodrome at Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre, Colwood; road races on 10.7-km Saanich-Victoria-Oak Bay circuit, or on 25-km circuit on the Patricia Bay Highway):
Canada is well stocked with capable road racers, from Alison Sydor of North Vancouver and Clara Hughes of Hamilton to Gord Fraser of Nepean, Ont., and Jacques Landry of Loretteville, Que. The road to gold for Fraser and Landry, however, runs through New Zealand’s Graham Miller, who is back to defend his Commonwealth title. Perhaps the best bet for Canada is on the track with world sprint champion Tanya Dubnicoff of Winnipeg and veteran Curt Harnett of Thunder Bay, Ont.
Diving (Commonwealth Place, Saanich):
Optimists suggest that this Canadian team could eclipse the nine-medal performance of the 1990 Commonwealth entry. That optimism is partly due to the dominance of Paige Gordon of West Vancouver, who is favored to win the women’s 10-m event. The men will be led by David Bedard of Hudson Heights, Que. Australia, New Zealand, and Wales will also send strong teams.
Field lacrosse (Royal Athletic Park, Victoria):
Canada’s national summer sport is a demonstration event, and all six teams – three women’s, three men’s are homegrown. The women’s division is broken down into regions (West, Central, and East), while the men’s comprises Canada West, Canada East and a native Indian team called the Iroquois Nationals.
Gymnastics artistic and rhythmic (Memorial Arena, Victoria): The Canadian men will miss Curtis Hibbert, who won five gold medals in 1990, but Canada has won the team titles at both previous Commonwealth Games that featured artistic gymnastics (vault, beam, parallel and high bars, pommel horse, rings and flood events). Despite strong contingents from Australia, England, and Scotland, that streak is likely to continue in Victoria for both the women, led by Stella Umeh of Mississauga, Ont. and the men, captained by Alan Nolet of Burlington. Canada’s three-woman rhythmic gymnastics team is also favored to win gold, with Camille Martens of Vernon, B.C., leading the way. She may be challenged by up-and-coming Australian Kasumi Takahashi, only 14 but already a veteran of international competition.