English threat real at Commonwealth Games

Weightlifter Francois Etoundi, athlete Melissa Breen and netballer Renae Hallinan show off their Glasgow Commonwealth Games uniforms in Melbourne on Monday. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Weightlifter Francois Etoundi, athlete Melissa Breen and netballer Renae Hallinan show off their Glasgow Commonwealth Games uniforms in Melbourne on Monday. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

COMMONWEALTH GAMES

Australia's status as Commonwealth Games bully boy faces its biggest threat since the Games were last held in Scotland.

The British nations' momentum from the London Olympics, coupled with Australia's slide, make the Glasgow Commonwealth Games England's best chance to reclaim top spot on the medals table since Edinburgh, 1986.

Of the 44 athletes who won Britain's 29 gold medals in London two years ago, 12 Olympic champions will compete for England in Glasgow.

Australia has Sally Pearson, Anna Meares and the four swimmers who won the women's 4x200m freestyle final in London.

It's virtually a home Games for England and its near full strength team is far more polished than the inexperienced outfit it took to Delhi four years ago.

"I'm not panicking, but the Australian public needs to be realistic and understand this will be a very challenging Games to have the success they take for granted and expect at a Commonwealth Games," Australian team chef de mission Steve Moneghetti said.

"We went unbelievably well in Delhi. I'm not expecting that in Scotland."

Australia has topped the medal table in all six Games since 1986, claiming 74 gold medals in Delhi, where England came third on the table with 37 gold, one behind host India.

Even in Manchester in 2002, Australia won 82 gold, 28 more than England.

But much has changed.

"No-one in their wildest dreams could think there won't be an ongoing success that would flow out of London for them [England]. It's just a matter of how much," Moneghetti said.

But there's a positive in Australia's hangover from its worst Olympics since 1992.

"I think it's almost the pressure's been slightly removed, now we're in a position to prove our worth again," Moneghetti said.

"I sense there's a real excitement among our athletes about what we can do."

Australia is sending its biggest travelling Commonwealth Games team of around 420.

Led by James Magnussen, Alicia Coutts, Cate Campbell and a new generation, swimming is again likely to be Australia's biggest source of success but the two other prestige sports - athletics and cycling - will present a difficult challenge.

Australia's stated aim to top the athletics medal count will be sorely tested by England's 129-strong track and field team headed by dual Olympic champion Mo Farah and long jump gold medallist Greg Rutherford.

Olympic 100m hurdles champion Pearson is the obvious Australian standout, while the field events traditionally offer strong medal chances, but the removal of the walks from the Games program will cost Australia several medals.

Australia dominated cycling in Delhi when many of England's best stayed home, but with eight Olympic champions in Glasgow, the English will be hard to top. - AAP

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