Commonwealth Games 2022: 10 things to watch out for in Birmingham

Show caption England’s Keely Hodgkinson is one of the track stars going straight from the world championships to the Commonwealth Games. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Commonwealth Games 2022 Commonwealth Games 2022: 10 things to watch out for in Birmingham Elite Jamaican sprinters, a swimming sensation returns and a chance to make cricket history as the Games begins this week Tumaini Carayol in Birmingham Tue 26 Jul 2022 17.47 BST Share on Facebook

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Track stars align

The world championships has only recently finished in the US, yet a hectic summer continues for some of the top athletes in the world. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Elaine Thompson-Herah and Shericka Jackson – the three faces of sprinting so far this year – are all expected to compete in Birmingham. Dina Asher-Smith, a 200m bronze medallist and a member of the 4x100m relay gold medal-winning team in 2018, will naturally be the focal point if she is fully fit after pulling up during the 4x100m in Oregon. While Katarina Johnson-Thompson will look to inch back to top form, athletes such as Jake Wightman, Keely Hodgkinson and Laura Muir will be aiming to consolidate their successes.

Three-peat in the pool

Adam Peaty, the world-record holder and Olympic champion in the 100m breaststroke, was forced to remain at home during the World Aquatic Championships in June after sustaining a fractured bone in his foot. His withdrawal from the event broke a run of five successive Olympic and world titles over 100m breaststroke, dating back to 2015. It is fair to say Peaty returns with even greater motivation as he looks to extend his unprecedented dominance over the field. A two-time defending Commonwealth champion from 2014 and 2018 over 100m breaststroke, the three-peat is on.

Gymnast seeks redemption

For a few fleeting weeks in May, Rhys McClenaghan and his fellow Northern Irish gymnasts had to come to terms with being barred from competing at the Commonwealth Games after being informed by the International Gymnastics Federation that their representation of the Republic of Ireland in other competitions meant they were ineligible to represent Northern Ireland here. After widespread and entirely appropriate outrage, the decision was overturned on appeal. McCleneghan, a charismatic 23-year-old who won gold in 2018 and has marked himself as one of the best gymnasts in the world on pommel horse, will especially be seeking redemption after both those stressful few weeks and a bitter 2021 season at the Olympics and world championships.

Rhys McClenaghan is looking for a return to form on the pommel horse after a challenging 2021. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile/Getty Images

England’s netball stakes

For so long, few nations could answer to the dominance of Australia and New Zealand in the world of international netball. Until 2018, all but one of the major trophies at the Netball World Cup and Commonwealth Games had been split between them, with Trinidad and Tobago’s three-way tie with the two nations at the World Cup in 1979 the one anomaly. But finally, in 2018, England clinched a historic Commonwealth Games gold medal, defeating Australia 52-51 in an unforgettable classic. England will return on home soil with a great target on their backs as they look to defend the title and ensure the country can build a permanent presence at the very top table. The stakes are stratospheric.

A first for cricket

For the first time in the history of the Commonwealth Games, women’s cricket will take centre stage, marking the return of one of the favoured sports of many participating nations. The last time cricket was included in the Commonwealth Games programme was the 1998 men’s event in Kuala Lumpur, but now the women will take the baton. It will also mark the first time the Twenty20 format is used at the Games, showcased on the iconic surrounds of Edgbaston with Australia, Barbados, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka all present.

Mixed events blossom

For the first time in the history of major multisport events, more medals will be awarded to women’s athletes than to men’s at the Commonwealth Games. In total there will be 136 women’s medal events and 134 for men, a further departure from the 2018 Games that offered an equal number of medals for both. There will also be 13 mixed events, a blossoming concept across all sports and the most there has ever been, with events such as synchronised 3m springboard diving and synchronised 10m platform diving joining the more established mixed events in swimming, athletics and triathlon.

Quick Guide England athlete sent home after testing positive for coronavirus Mark England, the Team England Chef de Mission, has confirmed an athlete has been sent home from the Commonwealth Games after testing positive for coronavirus. The athlete, who has not been named owing to medical confidentiality, failed the test upon arrival in Birmingham and is currently asymptomatic. A second athlete who initially returned a positive test for the virus has subsequently been cleared to compete in the Games after further testing. England said he hoped the affected athlete – who had the choice to go home or enter an isolation facility – will still have time to return a negative sample and return to Birmingham in time for their event. “The athlete has gone home and is being tested through the usual protocols until they attain the required safety values,” said England. “With the levels they are showing we are pretty confident they will be back in play again.” Team GB avoided any positive “in-country” tests at both the Tokyo Games – for which England was also Chef de Mission – and the Beijing Winter Olympics earlier this year. However England admitted that it was “inevitable” that there would be positive tests among the hundreds of Team England members passing through the process because “the world is in a different place” with the virus. The Birmingham organising committee is not issuing official numbers of positive Covid cases. But it understood that one Northern Ireland athlete has already withdrawn from the Games owing to coronavirus, while New Zealand confirmed one of their athletes is currently in isolation. PA Media Show Hide

Para sports grow

The full absorption of para sports into the Games continues in Birmingham as para competitions will again be showcased side by side with non-disabled competitions, marking the largest united para sport schedule in the history of the Games. There will be a record 283 medal events across eight para sports – athletics, cycling, weightlifting, swimming, table tennis, triathlon, 3×3 wheelchair basketball and lawn bowls. Paralympic champions such as Hannah Cockroft and Maisie Summers-Newton will be present and pursuing more glory.

Hannah Cockroft is one of the Paralympic champions competing in Birmingham. Photograph: John Walton/PA

efootball and Rocket League

No event underlines the Commonwealth Games’ push for modernisation quite like the inaugural Commonwealth esports championships, which will be held at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham. The games will include efootball, Dota 2 and Rocket League, and they will be split into open and women’s categories. There will additionally be a Commonwealth esports forum, bringing together various figures within the industry.

Kenny returns to VeloPark

One prominent sport will not be taking place in the West Midlands – 10 years since the 2012 London Olympics, track cycling will again be held at the Lee Valley VeloPark at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London. As they look to pursue more medals, the England cycling team will be led by the five-time Olympic gold medallist Laura Kenny, Great Britain’s most successful female Olympian, with Kenny returning to the site of two of her gold medals and even staying in converted flats that previously formed the Olympic village.

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Triathlon gets tough

One of the most well-received competitions of the Olympic Games last year was triathlon, which included the thrilling debut of mixed triathlon and Alex Yee’s rise to prominence with an Olympic silver in the individual event and gold in the mixed. All of those features will be on show once again in Birmingham as, among many other tough competitors, Yee duels with Hayden Wilde of New Zealand in the men’s individual race.