Let the Games begin!
PUBLISHED: 16:42 30 July 2014 | UPDATED: 16:44 30 July 2014
Devon will have a strong representation in the English team at the Commonwealth Games, as STEVE GIBBS reveals in this special profile of those carrying the county's hopes
Far from being a sporting throwback to the bygone days of Empire, the Commonwealth Games is competed for by almost one-third of the world’s population and remains second only in global prestige to the Olympics. Naturally, athletes from Team Devon – shooters, divers, swimmers, bowlers and the rest – will feature prominently in Glasgow from 23 July-3 August, and their success will be cherished.
As Britain’s number one skeet shooter, Plymouth’s Rory Warlow – who finished 16th at London 2012 – confirms: “I am delighted to have been selected to represent England at the Commonwealth Games, it’s a massive privilege to be able represent your country on such a stage.”
Throwing a personal best on her way to winning her third consecutive British Universities and Colleges title in May, North Devon AC javelin thrower Izzy Jeffs appears to be peaking at just the right time. Already responsible, at the age of 22, for the fifth-longest throw of all time by a Briton, Jeffs seems set to improve upon her 13th place finish in Delhi four years ago and challenge British number one Goldie Sayers.
Another personal best came, in June, from the golden boy of British diving, Tom Daley. Scoring 577.20 points in the ten-metre platform dive at the year’s final World Series event, in Mexico, Daley was quick to credit the influence of new coach, Jane Figueiredo. Still only 20 years old, he is already something of a veteran and will be confident of adding to the two golds he won in Delhi.
A 40-year-old mother of two, and veteran of four Olympic Games, Honiton’s Jo Pavey will once again take on the world’s best not once but twice in 2014. The 2006 Commonwealth Games 5,000 metre silver medallist will also compete in the 10,000 metre event against the all-conquering Kenyan team. She may have just broken the over-40s 5,000 metre world record, but Pavey is not yet ready for retirement.
Britain’s most successful swimmer of the 21st century, and holder of the world 50-metre backstroke record, Exeter’s Liam Tancock certainly belies his slightly ironic nickname of ‘Fatboy’. A three-time world champion and winner of six Commonwealth Games medals – including three golds – Tancock will hope to put an injury-ravaged 2013 season behind him and add to his impressive haul in Glasgow.
Reigning Commonwealth women’s lawn bowls singles champion, Natalie Melmore was something of a child prodigy. Bowling from the age of nine, and chosen to represent the England under-25 team at just 14 years-old, in 2010 Melmore became one of the youngest ever winners of her event. Now, turning 25 on 28 July, the Kings Bowls Club, Torquay, member has already given herself ‘home’ advantage by training at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Bowls Centre, the venue where she will defend her title.
Fellow Kings Club bowlers, and the latest members of Devon’s premier sporting family to achieve local and national recognition, siblings Sam and Sophie Tolchard embark upon their first Commonwealth Games together. Still only 22, Sophie had to watch her brother’s agonising fourth-place finish in Delhi, after losing both semi-final and bronze medal matches on tie breaks. Don’t be surprised, though, if both appear on the podium this time.
After enjoying a fabulous League and Cup double success with Surbiton, Giselle Ansley’s Commonwealth Games preparations took a turn for the worse with a disastrous Hockey World Cup campaign in May. England lost their first four games to make an immediate exit, but the bronze won by the former Paignton Hockey Club junior, in the 2013 World League Final, will help to sustain dreams of a medal in Glasgow.
20 year-old Ivybridge weightlifter Sonny Webster will be hoping to make it third time lucky this year, after narrowly missing out on selection for Delhi 2010 and London 2012, despite being named the British Olympic Associations 2011 Weightlifter of the Year. “This is my first Commonwealth Games and I am so excited,” he enthuses. “I came so close to selection for Delhi and London so to actually make it means so much. My training is going well and I’m in great shape so I hope to be in contention for a medal.”