Male athletes to watch at the 21st Commonwealth Games

Male athletes to watch at the 21st Commonwealth Games

GOLD COAST, Australia — More than 6,600 athletes and officials from across the world will converge on the Gold Coast for the 21st edition of the Commonwealth Games, the multi-sports event for 71 countries and territories of the British Commonwealth held every four years.

There will be 275 events across 19 sports at venues mostly on the Queensland state’s coastal tourist strip, ranging from track and field and swimming to beach volleyball, which will make its debut at the games.

Here are some men to watch at the April 4-15 games:

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Yohan Blake

Jamaica

Track and Field

Usain Bolt will be on the Gold Coast to watch. Blake will be here to win his first Commonwealth Games medal.

Blake, the 2011 world champion whose personal-best 9.69 seconds over the 100 has only ever been topped by fellow Jamaican Bolt (9.58 and 9.63), is in Australia for the first time and shaping as the favourite for the featured men’s track title after Canada’s Andre de Grasse announced he wasn’t competing on the Gold Coast.

Bolt has jokingly said there’ll be trouble if Blake doesn’t win the title. Blake isn’t feeling the pressure.

“I’m going home with that gold medal. So watch it,” Blake said. “I’m ready to go. I don’t have a Commonwealth medal — that’s something that has to be in my cabinet.”

Blake has two Olympic relay gold medals, and silvers in the 100 and 200 from the 2012 Olympics. After missing the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in order to prepare for the 2016 Olympics, Blake finished out the medals in fourth place in the 100 in Rio.

He was also fourth in the world championships in London last year, but he posted the 2nd and 6th quickest times for the 100 in 2017 and has the second-fastest so far this year.

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Fiji

Rugby Sevens

No team performance in the history of the modern Olympics has excited more jubilation in one nation than Fiji’s victory in rugby sevens at Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Not only did the Fiji government proclaim a national holiday and award grants of land and chiefly honours to the players and England-born coach Ben Ryan, but it created a seven-dollar banknote in the team’s honour. Sevens is Fiji’s national sport, its obsession and the victory in Rio brought the Pacific nation its first Olympic medal.

Sevens great Waisale Serevi has tipped Fiji to win its first Commonwealth Games gold, saying they’re peaking at the right time.

Fiji enters the games as winners of two tournaments on the current World Series, but is playing at the Commonwealth Games for the first time since 2006.

Jerry Tawai, Jasa Veremalua Semi Kunatani, who all played integral parts against Britain in the gold-medal match in 2016, are carry overs from the squad that won the Olympic title in Rio.

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Kyle Chalmers

Australia

Swimming

Australia swimmers won 19 of the country’s 49 gold medals at Glasgow in 2014. Chalmers, the 100-meter freestyle champion from the Rio Olympics in 2016, is the headliner of a men’s team that also includes James Magnussen, a two-time world champion and the 2012 Olympic silver medallist in the 100 freestyle.

The Australian public has come to expect a glut of medals from its swimming team at major international events, particularly at the Commonwealth Games. The women’s team is strong and will feature Emma McKeon will be the busiest Aussie with a six-event program of three individual events and three relays.

Cate Campbell made a strong return at the recent national trials — held at the same pool to be used for the main Games competition — from a 2017 sabbatical to cope with a poor performance at the Rio Olympics. The former world champion set Australian records in the 50-meter butterfly and 50 freestyle and also won the 100 freestyle.

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Damian Warner

Canada

Track and Field

The 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist in decathlon, Warner will be bidding to defend his title in the 2018 edition of the games. Warner won bronze at the Rio Games for Canada’s first Olympic medal in decathlon since Seoul 1988.

The 28-year-old won the silver medal in heptathlon at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham, England, earlier this month.

In Birmingham, Warner finished just five points behind France’s Kevin Mayer, who won Olympic silver in Brazil. In claiming silver, Warner set five personal bests: 6.74 seconds in the 60 metres, 14.90 metres in shot put, 2.02 metres in high jump, 4.90 metres in pole vault and 2:37.12 in the 1,000 metres.

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Aaron Brown

Canada

Track and Field

In the absence of Andre de Grasse, the 25-year-old Brown will carry Canada’s hopes in the men’s sprint events. Brown specializes in the 100 and 200 metres. He won an Olympic bronze medal as part of Canada’s 4-x-100 metre relay team at the Rio Games. He was also a member of Canada’s bronze medal winning 4-x-100 metre relay teams at the IAAF world championships in Beijing in 2015 and Moscow in 2013.

De Grasse was initially named to Canada’s team but has withdrawn. The Canadian triple Olympic sprint medallist says he wants to focus instead on his fitness for the outdoor season.

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Gagan Narang

India

Shooting

Narang is carrying India’s prospects of rich haul of medals in the Commonwealth Games competition which will see a strong contingent of 27 shooters.

The 34-year-old Narang won four gold medals in the 2006 Commonwealth Games at Melbourne and replicated his performance with another four at New Delhi in 2010.

His form dipped at Glasgow in 2014 when he won silver in the 50-meter rifle prone and a bronze in the 50-meter rifle three position categories, respectively.

Narang, an Olympic bronze medallist at London, will compete in 50-meter rifle prone event on the Gold Coast.

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Tom Daley

England

Diving

Married and a father-to-be, life has changed so much for Daley since he burst into the global consciousness in 2008 when he competed at the Beijing Olympics as a 14-year-old prodigy.

He is also now a world champion, rubber-stamping his status as the biggest name in the diving competitions at the Commonwealth Games.

Daley won a combined three gold medals in the 2010 and ‘14 games, and will compete in the 10-meter platform and 3-meter synchronized events at the Gold Coast.

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Max Whitlock

England

Gymnastics

England is aiming to surpass the 19 gymnastics medals it won in Glasgow in 2014 and, in Whitlock, the team has a perfect leader.

Whitlock is Britain’s most decorated gymnast, having won 11 medals — including four golds — at Olympics and world championships. He is the defending Commonwealth champion at the all-around competition, and appears to be standout competitor in the floor and pommel horse — the exercises in which he won gold at the 2016 Olympics.

This is his third Commonwealth Games. He has a combined eight medals from the games in Delhi and Glasgow.

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Tom Walsh

New Zealand

Track and Field

In work hours he’s an unassuming builder from the sleepy South Island town of Timaru, beyond that he’s one of the world’s best male shot put throwers.

That’s just about the story of Tom Walsh, who seems to have come from nowhere to join the sport’s elite. Walsh was almost unknown outside his native New Zealand three years ago. Now he’s a triple winner of the world indoor title and at recent meeting in New Zealand Walsh threw 22.67 metres, the longest put in the world in the last 15 years and the ninth best of all-time. The throw prompted veteran U.S. shotputter Ryan Whiting to call Walsh the best “clean” putter in history.

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Nick Matthew

England

Squash

A former top-ranked player, Matthew has been the best male squash player in the Commonwealth over the past decade and is bidding for his third straight gold medal in the singles. He has also won gold in the doubles, in 2010.

At age 37, this will be his fourth and last Commonwealth Games, having previously announced that this would be his final playing season.

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TEAM TO WATCH

Australia

Cycling

Reigning Commonwealth Games champions Stephanie Morton, Matthew Glaetzer and Annette Edmondson headline the track selections for the powerful Australian team, in addition to the return of 2010 Gold medallists Cameron Meyer and Kaarle McCulloch.

Reigning road national champions Alexander Edmondson and Shannon Malseed, triple world championship medallist Katrin Garfoot and 2006 Commonwealth Games road race gold medallist Mathew Hayman are in in the road selections.

Australian cyclists won 24 medals at Glasgow in 2014, including seven golds.

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AP Sports Writers Dennis Passa, Steve McMorran, Steve Douglas, Rizwan Ali and Jim Armstrong contributed.

John Pye, The Associated Press

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