The opening ceremony of the 20th Commonwealth Games takes place tonight in Scotland’s largest City, Glasgow.
Also known as the ‘Shipbuilding Capital of the World’, Glasgow will be hosting the games for the first time and the North East looks set to be well represented, with over twenty athletes competing across a variety sports.
Sunderland in particular have a strong pool of talent to rely on, with heavyweight boxer Warren Baister amongst the athletes in attendance. Baister is currently one of the top domestic heavyweights, after winning the ABA Championship earlier in the Year.
Baister had this to say:
“I’m happy with where I’m at, how I’m feeling, I’m fit, I’m healthy and feel ready”.
“This is probably the biggest thing I’ve been involved with in terms of media coverage. I mean, I’ve been to European and World championships but this is such a major international event.”
Baister is joined by fellow North East boxers Pat McCormack from Birtley and World Champion Savannah Marshall of Hartlepool. Marshall will be competing in the games’ first ever womens’ boxing event, following the success of the sport at London 2012.
Another Sunderland hopeful and former University of Sunderland student Alyson Dixon will also be competing. Dixon, who will be competing in the marathon, already has a wealth of experience to shout about, having previously competed in the World Championships as well as narrowly missing out on the 2012 Olympics due to injuries which hindered her in qualifying.
35-year-old Dixon was staggered to hear she’d be selected, after fulfilling a lift long ambition of being selected to represent England at the Commonwealth games:
“Here I am. I’ve been selected, I’m going to do that. It shows it’s been a lifelong dream. I’m going to be running around the streets of Glasgow with the red and white of England on my chest. It’s hard to put into words how it feels.”
Dixon also credited the University for playing a part in her selection saying: “The facilities are local to me and have been a big part of my development. It is great to have such world class facilities and staff on my doorstep to assist me in my preparation.”
Joining Dixon in the athletics are Jade Jones and Richard Kilty from Middlesborough and Stockton respectively, Joasia Zakrzewski from Durham and Guy Learmouth of Berwick.
Stuart Airey will be the third Sunderland-born athlete competing, his chosen sport, bowls. Now based in Carlisle, Airey is tipped to win a medal in Glasgow, after missing out on a gold meal in Dehli 2010. Airey and his team-mate Mervyn King, had a nine-point lead in the final against South Africa, before they fell apart and handed the African side the win.
So Airey will be keen to have learnt from his misfortune in 2010, when he makes his second Commonwealth appearance.
The final Wearside representative will be competing in cycling, but not for Team England. Optician Anna Turvey, who’s mother is Scottish, is competing for Team Scotland despite working and living in Ashbrooke, Sunderland.
Anna, who only recently started to cycle professionally said:
“I feel like this is just the beginning of the journey for me. It’s difficult for female cyclists as there aren’t the opportunities that there are in male cycling. Nobody does this for the money, but you need to be able to support yourself.”
Other regional athletes include:
Will Smith – Bromton – 1,500m T54
Laira Weightman – Alnwick – 1,500m
Kate Avery – Shildon – 10,ooom
Lauren Smith – Carlisle – Badminton
Jack Laugher – Ripon – Diving
Sarah Clark – South Shields – Judo
Chris Tomlinson – Middlesbrough – Long Jump
David Owen – Carlisle – Shooting
Jenny Duncalf – Harrogate – Squash
James Willstrop- Harrogate – Squash
Aimee Willmott – Middlesborough – Swimming
Gareth Mills – Scarbourgh – Swimming
Paul Drinkhall – Loftus – Table Tennis
Karina Le Fevre – Stockton – Table Tennis
Danny Reed – Hutton Rudby – Table Tennis
The opening ceremony will take place this evening (23rd July) at 9pm.