Commonwealth Games: Magic moment in Birmingham and what will happen for Wales?

Team Wales finished the 2022 Commonwealth Games with 28 medals – eight gold, six silver and 14 bronze.

The total was eight short of the 36 set record in the last two games.

The team also failed to match the 10 golds they won in the Gold Coast four years earlier, although the eight they won in Birmingham are still one of their best performances in history.

There were many memorable moments. From Olivia Breen’s golden smile to 75-year-old Gordon Llewellyn becoming the nation’s oldest Commonwealth medalist.

Some sports such as cycling and boxing excelled. Others wondered, what if?

But it looks like Wales has unearthed some young talent who is set to move on to the next Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024.

BBC Sport Wales looks at Team Wales’ times in Birmingham.

magic moment

On the first night of track and field events, Olivia Breen had the race of her life. 26-year-old out-sprint double Paralympic champion and longtime rival Sophie Hahn won gold in the women’s T37/38 100m final.

Her smile reshaped Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium as she crossed the line that would arguably become the defining image of the Commonwealth of Wales.

Former world champion triathlete Non Stanford said before the Games that winning a medal for Wales was her “last dream”.

Her first time in the women’s individual race came and went, as she finished sixth. But then the mixed relay team of Stanford, Dominic Coe, Olivia Mathias and Istin Harrett from Wales came out with something special.

The relatively inexperienced team at the international level was trailing Olympians as they set up Stanford for an emotional sprint finish for silver, which they later confirmed would be their last major race.

Some of Team Wales’ best results at the Birmingham Games actually came 140 miles away in London.

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Track cycling was held at Lee Valley Velopark, which is home to many memorable moments from the London Olympics.

Wales won six medals, including a gold for para tandem cyclist James Ball and two stunning bronzes for sprint sensation Emma Finucane.

At the age of 75, Gordon Llewellyn, along with Julie Thomas in the para mixed pairs, won silver at Lawn Bowls, becoming Wales’ oldest Commonwealth medalist. Three days later Anna Hersey, 59 years her junior, won the bronze medal in table tennis.

And then there were boxers. The Class of 2022 competed in a show, winning two gold, one silver and three bronze medals to surpass the previous best of the Games in 1958.

The two champions, Ian Croft and Rosie Ackles, will be the ones to watch before the next Olympics, but All six medalists impressed throughout the week,

mercury glory

Arguably Team Wales’ biggest success story at the Birmingham Games was the strength of its para athletes.

Nineteen were selected, a record number, and they came back with eight medals, adding to the team’s total of four golds.

Also Olivia Breen, Eld Sion Davis also won gold medals in Para Athletics. James Ball won track cycling gold and silver, while Joshua Stacey became Wales’ first Commonwealth champion in table tennis.

Harrison Walsh couldn’t hide his emotion when he won the F42-44/F61-64 discus bronze behind Davis, while 18-year-old Lily Rice, who made her name backflipping wheelchairs, won a bronze medal in the pool nine months after starting the game. Again.

Then there was that remarkable silver in the Para Lawn bowl for Llewellyn and Julie Thomas.

what if?

There was a sliding door moment long before the Games started, when shooting was left out of the 2022 Games schedule.

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Wales had won five medals, including two gold, at the Games four years ago. Ultimately those were the medals that Wales failed to make anywhere else here.

There were unanswered questions throughout the game. Swimmer Dan Jarvis was a big hope for a gold medal in the men’s 1500m freestyle, but was forced to pull out of the Games due to the ongoing effects of Covid.

Geraint Thomas’ crash in the men’s time trial at least cost him the silver and would have won the gold medal if he had stayed on his bike. From the pool to the velodrome, there was also a bucket load of narrow quarters.

room for improvement

While cycling and boxing excelled, with seven and six medals respectively, Birmingham had more disappointing times in other sports.

For the first time since Cardiff hosted the Games in 1958, Wales failed to win a weightlifting medal.

Hall 1 at the NEC never came close to the scenes of Gareth Evans dancing in celebration after winning Wales’ first gold at the Games in Australia four years earlier.

Swimming and athletics were mixed. Teenagers Meddy Harris and Lily Rice were proud of their bronze medals in the pool, but this was only the second time in five sports that the Games had not produced a Commonwealth champion.

The athletics did not win any medals outside of its exceptional para sport program – but there were impressive results in the high-class fields for 100 m sprinter Jeremiah Azu and 1,500 m sprinter Jake Hayward with a fifth-place finish.

reason to be happy

The future looks bright for Team Wales as a whole host of young stars are set to make a name for themselves in the near future.

UK men’s 100 m champion Azu became the first Welshman to reach the men’s 100 m final as it was counted in metres, not yards.

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Hayward broke a Commonwealth Games record in the men’s 1500m final but unfortunately had four others ahead of him, such is the power of the event these days.

In the pool, teens Harris, Rice and Olympic champion Matt Richards could shine in Paris, while cycling sprinters Finucane, Ryan Edmonds and Lori Thomas looked right at home with countless Olympians at the velodrome.

Ian Croft was awarded the bronze medal by his twin brother, Garan, who had won a gold medal in boxing.

Both are establishing themselves in the Great Britain Olympic program and 20-year-olds will only grow from here on in strength.

And you can’t talk about Wales’ young stars without mentioning table tennis player Anna Hersey, who made global headlines four years ago when she was selected for the Gold Coast at the age of just 11.

Now, in 2022, she will be remembered for her achievements, not her age, as the teenager won a bronze medal in women’s doubles with Charlotte Carey.

Time to say goodbye

No great champion can last forever and 2022 saw the final performance in the Raid of Wales for many top stars.

Geraint Thomas wins his fourth Commonwealth medal, 16 years after his first confirming it will be his last game for Wales.

Stanford also went high with its triathlon relay silver.

And no Welsh woman has ever gone to the Commonwealth Games more than Anwen Buten.

The 49-year-old lawn bowler was the team’s captain in her sixth games. She later announced that she would step aside in the sport.

So that was the story of Wales in 2022. Indicated by Victoria, Australia, where they got to do it all over again in just under four years.

medal table