Commonwealth Games gold medallists Sharelle McMahon and Kurt Fearnley have been appointed to leadership positions on the Australian Commonwealth Games team for the 2022 edition in Birmingham.
McMahon and Fearnley will join Chef de Mission Petria Thomas and Commonwealth Games Australia’s team performance general manager Tim Mahon on the Australian Team Executive for the Games.
Team chef de mission Petria Thomas said McMahon and Fearnley both have a passion for the Games and the leadership qualities to be excellent ambassadors for the Australian team, saying their experiences as Games athletes will be invaluable.
“They are already great ambassadors for Australian sport and the team in Birmingham will certainly benefit from their leadership,” Thomas said.
“Sharelle and Kurt both bring an enormous amount of experience and insight and they are both great Australian champions that our team will greatly benefit from. The respect they command within the Australian sporting community is immense and as a collective our team executive can help establish the standards and expectations for the way the team conducts itself.”
Commonwealth Games Australia is planning to send one of its largest teams to compete in an away campaign with an expected team size of 425 athletes across 19 sports, including the recently introduced women’s T20 cricket.
The largest team for an away Commonwealth Games is 409 athletes in Glasgow in 2014.
Australia was represented by 473 athletes on the Gold Coast with the team topping the medal tally with 80 gold, 59 silver and 59 bronze medals.
Dual gold medalist Sharelle McMahon competed in four Games and was the youngest member of the netball team which won gold at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur. Four years later she helped the team defend that title in Manchester while also winning silver medals at the following Games in Melbourne and Delhi.
A former national team captain, McMahon was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2016.
Kurt Fearnley bowed out of international competition with an emotional win in the T54 marathon on the streets of the Gold Coast in 2018, an effort which saw him become the first Para-sport athlete to win Sport Australia Hall of Fame’s ‘The Don’ Award, as the athlete who had most inspired the nation.
He concluded his international representative career as a two-time Commonwealth Games and three-time Paralympic gold medallist.
Nine-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist Thomas will become Australia’s first female Commonwealth Games team Chef de Mission.
Thomas has served at the past four Commonwealth Games as part of the Australian team headquarters staff and was part of Chef de Mission Steve Moneghetti’s Team Executive on the Gold Coast.
The Team Executive met for the first time recently, and despite the many questions that remain during the current COVID-19 pandemic, Thomas said planning for the 2022 Games needed to continue.
“Our normal way of life is on hold in many ways; however we need to look forward,” Thomas said.
“We are fortunate to have time on our side for Birmingham, however many areas of our planning and preparation for 2022 will be impacted by the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.”
“Confirmation that World Athletics has moved the 2021 world championships in the week before the Games in 2022 will impact our athletics team and many other Games sports will also have calendars impacted by the Tokyo postponement… But we will plan on what we know for now and be flexible to change those plans if, and when, required.”
McMahon said she was looking forward to getting back to the Commonwealth Games environment after last having been on the team in Delhi in 2010.
“For me, during my career, it was a tournament that I always loved, so it will be exciting to be back,” McMahon said.
“Helping the entire team to have a great experience, both in terms of performance, but I always loved the feel of the Commonwealth Games so I’m really excited about being part of creating something special for everyone who’s involved.”
Fearnley, who will go directly from winning gold in one Games to being on the management side said he was honoured to be part of the Games team in a different capacity.
“I’ve had some amazing Commonwealth Games experiences so I’m looking forward to remaining involved and assisting where I can,” Fearnley added.
Thomas said the group will continue to seek input from Commonwealth Games Australia’s Athlete Advisory and Performance and Healthcare advisory groups as planning for the Games continues.
A planned visit to Birmingham to mark two years to go this July (27th) is very unlikely to proceed so Thomas looks forward to visiting the Games city when life returns to normal.
“Whenever that is, who knows, however, what we do know is that sport is part of the fabric of Australian life… when it comes to the Commonwealth Games, along with the Paralympics and Olympics, everyone is cheering for the same team – Australia,” Thomas said.
“We look forward to being able to cheer and celebrate our athletes when international competition begins again.”
Birmingham 2022 is set for the largest-ever female and para-sport programme in history with women’s T20 cricket, beach volleyball and Para-table tennis joining the existing sports including aquatics (swimming, Para-swimming and diving), athletics and Para-athletics, badminton, basketball 3×3 and wheelchair basketball 3×3, boxing, cycling (mountain, road, track and Para-track), gymnastics (artistic and rhythmic), hockey, judo, lawn bowls and Para-bowls, netball, rugby sevens, squash, table tennis, triathlon and Para-triathlon, weightlifting and Para-powerlifting and wrestling.
The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will take place from 27 July to 7 August.