Australia’s battle with England for Commonwealth Games dominance heats up immediately on the opening day of competition on Thursday, with medals in cycling, swimming and triathlon expected to be shared among the two Commonwealth powers.
With the retirement of her English nemesis Victoria Pendleton, flag bearer Anna Meares is a firm favourite to take gold in cycling’s 500m time trial at the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome, the Australian having no qualms about competing the day after marching at the opening ceremony.
Being named Australia’s flag bearer on Monday motivated her hugely, she said.
“I’m feeling the love at the moment. Love turns to happiness and when I feel good, I go good,” she said at the time.
While she’s expected to win her fifth Commonwealth gold, the men’s Ashes cycling contest will be fierce.
Australia’s world champion team pursuiters take on an England foursome featuring three Olympic gold medallists, including Sir Bradley Wiggins, while New Zealand have also shown they’re a threat in a truly world class event.
As Wiggins points out, they are the likely three medallists at the Rio Olympics.
Shane Perkins has pulled out of the individual sprint to focus on leading Australia in the team sprint on Thursday with Matthew Glaetzer and Nathan Hart. They’re up against an England team which features a pair of Olympic champions.
England are also expected to reign in the triathlon with Olympic gold medallist Alistair Brownlee and his world champion brother Jonny the favourites.
The first gold medal of the Games will be won in the women’s triathlon with Emma Moffatt Australia’s best hope of keeping England’s Jodie Stimpson at bay.
But Australia should take an early lead on the medals table courtesy of a traditional strong start by the swimmers, with as many as five of the six gold on the opening night at the Tollcross Swimming Centre.
Siblings David (400m freestyle) and Emma McKeon (200m freestyle) and Cate and Bronte Campbell (women’s 4x100m freestyle relay) are overwhelming favourites.
And world 100m breaststroke champion Christian Sprenger will try to topple Scot Michael Jamieson in the men’s 200m final, with the world record under threat.
Australia is also a fancy for the rhythmic gymnastics team gold, while the women’s hockey team open their campaign against Malaysia and the netballers play Wales.