Following on from the unforgettable London 2012 Olympics, 2014 marked Glasgow’s turn in the limelight as a host of familiar faces and new stars alike landed north of the border for the Commonwealth Games.
It was a successful 11 days for the host nations all told, as England topped the medal table for the first time in almost 30 years with a record-breaking tally of 174, including 58 gold. Scotland took a best-ever fourth place, with 19 gold medals, while Wales managed five golds – including one on the final day in the men’s road race for Geraint Thomas, fresh from his Tour de France heroics for Team Sky, despite suffering two punctures.
Jodie Stimpson started England’s ball rolling by taking the first gold of the games in the women’s triathlon, while 4 ft 5 gymnast Claudia Fragapane announced herself in fine style with a remarkable four gold medals in the team final, the all-around, vault and floor finals – and all at the tender age of 16. England also uncovered a new diving sensation as 19-year-old Jack Laugher swept to two gold medals and one silver in the 1m springboard and the 3 m synchronised alongside Chris Mears; Tom Daley surpassed the 500-point marker on his way to gold in the 10 m individual, having earlier earned silver in the synchronised event alongside new partner James Denny.
There was track and field glory aplenty too. Although the fancied Martyn Rooney missed out on the medals in a 400 m final won by Grenadan Olympic champion Kirani James, Matthew Hudson-Smith held off the Bahamas Chris Brown in the final leg of the men’s 4×400 m relay to deliver the England quartet gold, while in the absence of Usain Bolt, Adam Gemili emerged as the closest challenger to Jamaica’s Kemar Bailey-Cole to claim silver in the 100m. There was even a medal for 40 year-old mum-of-two Jo Pavey, who rolled back the clock to take bronze in the 5,000 m, while Paralympic athlete David Weir completed the grand slam of Paralympic, World, European and Commonwealth titles by winning the T54 1500 m race. Elsewhere, long jumper Greg Rutherford defended his Olympic crown, Steve Lewis won out in the pole vault and Isobel Pooley made a personal best of 1.92 m to take high jump silver.
Olympic champion Nicola Adams defeated Northern Ireland’s Michaela Walsh to add the inaugural female Commonwealth Games boxing title to her impressive resumé, while Brownlee brothers Alastair and Jonny followed up their Olympic gold and bronze with first and second in the men’s triathlon, before combining with Stimpson and Vicky Holland for mixed relay gold. On two wheels, Lizzie Armitsted avenged her defeats in sprint finishes in Delhi and London by breaking clear on the final lap of the women’s road race, leading home time-trial silver medallist Emma Pooley in an England 1-2. This followed track success for Joanna Rowsell in the individual pursuit and Laura Trott, who recovered from a kidney infection in the points race, with Jason Kenny taking silver in the men’s sprint.
There was much to cheer for the hosts too, with six gold medals in judo and some big scalps in the pool. Defending Commonwealth champion Hannah Miley overcame England’s Aimee Wilmott to win the 400 m medley, with fellow Scot Dan Wallace winning the men’s equivalent. Ross Murdoch shocked his favoured compatriot, Olympic silver medallist Michael Jamieson, to win gold in the 200 m breaststroke; and there was a further upset in in the 100 m para breaststroke as 13-year-old schoolgirl Erraid Davies from the Shetlands won a sensational bronze. The drama didn’t stop there, as 800 m European champion Lynsey Sharp had been on a drip in hospital 24 hours before claiming a hard-fought silver medal, a result matched by the games’ poster girl Eilidh Child in the 400 m hurdles. Para cyclist Neil Fachie and his pilot Craig MacLean were roared on by Sir Chris Hoy to double gold in the tandem time trial and the sprint in the Velodrome that bears his name; postman Charlie Flynn took the lightweight boxing title and Alex Marshall, “the Messi of bowls” vindicated his nickname with a further two gold medals in the men’s pairs and men’s fours.
Despite taking second overall in the medals table, Australia will feel they underachieved having finished 37 medals adrift of England and having won just 49 golds, compared to the 74 they took home in Delhi four years ago. Among their highlights were Emma McKeon’s four gold medals in the pool; Olympic champion Sally Pearson defending her 100 m hurdles title; and a fifth Commonwealth gold for Anna Meares in the 500m time trial – leaving the 30-year-old now just one short of equalling the all-time record. But surely the biggest smile was reserved for steeplechase runner Genevieve LaCaze, who couldn’t resist joining Kylie Minogue on-stage during the closing ceremony.
Even Usain Bolt graced the “Friendly Games” with a cameo appearance in Jamaica’s 4×100 m relay team. The world’s fastest man lapped up the crowd’s adoration dancing to the Proclaimers, before turning on the style to deny England and Trinidad and Tobago with a ballistic final leg that further cements his legacy as one of the greatest athletes of all time – if such a thing were possible.