IMAGE|| Australia Winning women’s fours Lawn Bowls team
L – R Marion Stevens, Daphne Shaw, Audrey Rutherford and Dorothy Roche.
Just 16 years after hosting the 1974 Games, they were back in the land of the long white cloud, New Zealand as Auckland hosted their second Commonwealth Games in 1990.
By David Tarbotton
The opening ceremony on January 24 was regarded as “Olympic-class” as described by the then IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch. In competition Australia was very strong in the pool and our lawn bowlers made history at the Games. In Auckland we also saw the launched of the careers of some of Australia’s future greats and the start of a very strong decade in Australian sporting history, which gathered momentum towards hosting the Sydney Olympics.
The Australian team was the largest ever, numbering 247 athletes and 68 officials. They joined 55 countries competing in the 10 sports on the program: athletics, Badminton, boxing, cycling, gymnastics, judo, lawn bowls, shooting, swimming and weightlifting. The timing of the Games in the Australian summer months of January and February certainly assisted them on the medal tally, winning 162 medals (52 gold), well ahead of second best nation England with 129 medals (47 gold).
Little known sprinter, Cathy Freeman, 16, earned a surprise position on the Australian team as a member of the 4x100m relay after a stunning wind assisted 100m time of 11.42 (+3.3m/s wind) at the trails in December 1989. She had placed equal third with Kathy Sambell. At the Commonwealth Games she ran on the third leg of the relay which won the gold medal. Her career was launched.
Sydney’s Andrew Lloyd, was an outside chance for a medal in the 5000m. After a couple of falls during the race, the event started to open up. Over the penultimate lap he ran in a pack which were about 30 metres behind leader, Kenyan John Ngugi, but with 200m to go, the pack was sprinting and they were making ground on Ngugi. Lloyd seemed to be making the most inroads on his lead and eventually with 20 metres to go, Lloyd caught and passed Ngugi – taking the gold medal, Australia’s first and only in the event at the Commonwealth Games. Lloyd later said that initially breaking from the pack he only had the silver in mind, but later thought: “bugger this, I’m going for gold.”
On the bowling greens at the Pakuranga Combined Bowling Club, Australia enjoy their best-ever Games, winning four of the six titles on offer. Brisbane’s Rob Parella defeated 20-year-old Mark Mahon from Hong Kong in the final 25-14. It was Australia’s ever gold in this event. In the men’s pairs, Ian Schubert and Trevor Morris won Australia’s inaugural gold in this event, starting a string of three consecutive victories for Australia in Victoria and Kuala Lumpur. In the women’s Australia won its first and to-date only gold in lawn bowls. The team of Audrey Rutherford, Daphne Shaw, Marion Stevens and Dorothy Roche won a close battle in the final, defeating host nation New Zealand 20 to 18. Dorothy Roche, aged 61, remains Australia’s oldest gold medallist in Commonwealth Games history.
Australia’s most successful athlete in Commonwealth Games history, Phil Adams, who during his five-Game career won 18 medals including seven gold, was at his career peak in Auckland claiming five medals including three gold. He won the Free Pistol individual and pairs (with Bengt Sandstrom) and Centre-Fire Pistol pairs with Bruce Quick.
At the Henderson Pool, Australia totally dominated the freestyle and relay events, winning all 14 on the program. Winning two sprint titles and a third gold in the relay, Andrew Baildon was unstoppable. He will bring that winning Commonwealth Games experience to the Australian team for the Gold Coast 2018 Games. In the men’s 1500m, Glen Housman was another in the long line of very successful metric-mile swimmers Australia have produced. At the trials he had dipped under the seemingly unbeatable world record, but was not credited with the record when the touch pad did not register his finish time. In Auckland Housman just missed the record by less than half a second, but clipping at his heels was the next Aussie star in this event, Kieren Perkins who would become Olympic champion two years later in Barcelona. In the women’s Brisbane’s Hayley Lewis won five gold and a bronze medals across the freestyle, butterfly, individual medley and relay events. She also received the honour of lunch with the Queen when she visited the village.
Also at the Henderson Pool Australia won three of the six titles. Russell Butler, claimed the inaugural 1 metre springboard gold medal, while Craig Rogerson and Jenny Donnet the 3 metres titles. Donnet, who had won gold in 1982 and silver in 1986, continued the amazing Donnet-dynasty which has included her mother and great aunt winning gold over a 52-year span.
At the velodrome and on the road at cycling, Australia and New Zealand dominated winning four and six gold medals respectively. In the 1000m pursuit Gary Neiwand defended his title and would go on to win a third in Victoria four later. Another Aussie to defend was reigning world champion Martin Vinnicombe in the 1000m time trial, while Robert Burns won the inaugural points race. After just missing the gold medal in the 3000m individual pursuit by 0.11 seconds, she won the inaugural road race event by a fraction more 0.28 seconds in an event which lasted one hour 55:11.60 minutes.
Gymnastics made a comeback to the Games after missing the two previous editions. Australia’s stars were Brennon Dowrick and Monique Allen. Dowrick led an Australian gold-silver domination with Tim Lees also on the podium. Dowrick added two bronze medals. Monique Allen won the uneven bars and claim another three podium finishes.
At the weightlifting, Australia’s sole gold medallist was Ron Laycock in the middleweight division. Laycock won the clean and jerk and the overall with a total lift of 310 kilograms.
On the roads, Adelaide’s Lisa Martin defended the inaugural Commonwealth Games marathon title she had won in 1986. Her time of 2:25.28 was extraordinary, it remains the Games record and she won the event by nearly eight minutes. In the 10km walk, Ballina’s multi-world record holder Kerry Saxby-Junna was just as dominant winning by two minutes.