Commonwealth Games: Brownlee brothers can lead Yorkshire charge

The Commonwealth Games gets underway on Wednesday with the opening ceremony, and for real on Thursday when the first medals are up for grabs. Yorkshire is well represented in Glasgow. Nick Westby looks at the county’s hopefuls.

Alistair Brownlee celebrates as he crosses the finish line at London 2012.
Alistair Brownlee celebrates as he crosses the finish line at London 2012.

Yorkshire had an Olympics to savour in 2012, but this summer’s great gathering of sporting superstars might see the county surpass even that remarkable achievement.

A total of 12 medals were won by athletes either from this county or who were raised or train in the White Rose, from the 54 who headed to London two years ago.

A contingent of 63 from the Broad Acres head north to Glasgow this week for the Commonwealth Games, with just as many of its sporting greats in the hunt for medals – if not more.

There is no Jessica Ennis-Hill, the golden girl of London 2012, who is at home with her new son Reggie, but some of the athletes who became household names at London are set to further enhance their reputations with historic victories.

Alistair and Jonny Brownlee, the pioneering triathletes from Leeds, can set the ball rolling on what should be an avalanche of medals for England at these Commonwealth Games when they race the individual triathlon on Thursday.

Perhaps not at their strongest this year in the sport’s world series, they have been ensconced in their high-altitude training camp in St Moritz for the summer preparing solely for these Games, emerging only once to finish first and second – Alistair still at the front – in the world series round in Hamburg earlier this month.

After racing against each other on Thursday, they will then race together and alongside the women – Lucy Hall and Victoria Hall, who both used to live in Leeds, among them – in Saturday’s team triathlon, the first time in a major Games that the two Yorkshire brothers have been able to combine their phenomenal resources.

Expect at least three gold medals to be in Brownlee hands come Saturday evening.

The following Saturday, Nicola Adams – the first woman to win an Olympic boxing title two years ago – bids to become the first woman to win a Commonwealth Games gold medal in the sport of women’s boxing, in the flyweight 51kg final, providing she gets that far of course.

For any Olympic champions, the Commonwealth title they seek should in theory be easier to come by, given the aura they possess from that earlier achievement and the fact that a Commonwealth field is invariably weaker.

Having said that, the Commonwealth gold medal is the only one not on the mantlepiece of Ed Clancy, Huddersfield’s prolific title-winning track cyclist.

The double Olympic champion, five-time world and reigning European champion goes for glory alongside his old mate Sir Bradley Wiggins in the team pursuit on the first Thursday of the Games.

The Commonwealths has been the target for Clancy all season and Wiggins’s return will strengthen the hand of the English team in the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome.

Otley’s Olympic silver medallist Lizzie Armitstead is in the mix for medals in both the road and track disciplines.

For Yorkshire’s squash stars, the Commonwealths is their Olympics.

The current and former world No 2s Nick Matthew of Sheffield and James Willstrop of Pontefract have long lobbied for their sport’s inclusion at the highest level.

The constant rejection means the Commonwealth Games for Matthew, Willstrop, Emma Beddoes, Jenny Duncalf and Sarah Kippax is the pinnacle of squash and the biggest shop window they have.

Glasgow may also be the breakthrough Games for the region’s wealth of aquatic talent.

The City of Leeds Diving Club as ever provides nearly half of the squad for the events at the Royal Commonwealth Pool and it comes at just the right time in the career trajectories of three Yorkshire teenagers in particular; Jack Laugher, Alicia Blagg and Hannah Starling.

This trio have been regular finalists at World Cup meets around the globe in 2014 with Laugher having broken on to the podium.

Look for him to take just a moment’s attention away from Tom Daley, for whom the coverage will be unnecessarily excessive as always.

Another teenager who shares the John Charles Aquatics Centre facilities with the Leeds diving club is Doncaster-born swimmer Sophie Taylor, who won three national titles in April in the same Tollcross Swimming Centre in which she will bid to win Commonwealth titles from Thursday.

Down at Ponds Forge, the City of Sheffield squad sends six swimmers to Glasgow, Olympians Rebecca Turner and Eleanor Faulkner, as well as rising stars Lewis Coleman, Max Litchfield and Nick Grainger, who all represent England, and Scarborough’s Gareth Mills, who swims for Wales.

Leeds is well represented in badminton through Gabby Adcock, Andrew Ellis and Kate Robertshaw, while three weightlifters and powerlifters from the squad base at Leeds Metropolitan University – Sarah Davies, Ali Jawad and Jack Oliver – are also competing in Glasgow.

The British table tennis centre at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield is represented by Middlesbrough Olympian Paul Drinkhall along with Hannah Hicks, Karina Le Fevre and Kelly Sibley. Sheffield’s Tom Powell, who used to play club rugby for Dinnington in the Yorkshire pyramid, is in England’s team for the inaugural Commonwealth rugby sevens tournament, while Leeds’s Nile Wilson is a name to look out for in the gymnastics.

We have got this deep into the Games litany of sports without mentioning the blue riband athletics events that take place at Hampden Park.

In the absence of medal favourite like Ennis-Hill, the Yorkshire athletes involved are primarily those looking to make a name for themselves.

They will include Barnsley pole vaulter Luke Cutts, Cleckheaton hammer thrower Sarah Holt and Sheffield decathlete John Lane.

For the likes of Middlesbrough long jumper Chris Tomlinson and Wakefield high jumper Martyn Bernard, Glasgow offers a chance to add a winning finale to their long careers.

In all, more than 4,100 athletes representing 71 nations will bid for medals across 17 sports in the 20th Commonwealth Games.

Expect a fair few of those medals to be won by Yorkshire’s finest.

Yorkshire’s Commonwealth Games representatives


100m: Richard Kilty (Stockton on Tees)

1500m: Laura Weightman (Leeds)

1500m T53/54: Jade Jones (Midd’bro)

4x100m: Louise Bloor (Rotherham)

Pole Vault: Luke Cutts (Rotherham)

Long Jump: Chris Tomlinson (Midd’bro)

Hammer: Alex Smith (Hull)

High Jump: Martyn Bernard (Wakefield)

Hammer: Sarah Holt (Cleckheaton)

Javelin: Joe Dunderdale (Sheffield)

Decathlon: John Lane (Sheffield)

Heptathlon: Jessica Taylor (North Yorks)


Gabby Adcock (Leeds)

Andrew Ellis (Leeds)

Kate Robertshaw (Leeds)


Nicola Adams (Leeds)

Qais Ashfaq (Leeds)


Lizzie Armitstead (Otley)

Ed Clancy (Huddersfield)

Tom Moses (Keighley)

Scott Thwaites (Burley-in-Wharfedale)


Matty Lee (Leeds)

Jack Laugher (Leeds)

Chris Mears (Leeds)

James Denny (Leeds)

Nicholas Robinson-Baker (Sheffield)

Fred Woodward (Sheffield)

Oliver Dingley (Harrogate)

Rebecca Gallantree (Leeds)

Hannah Starling (Leeds)

Alicia Blagg (Leeds)


Nile Wilson (Leeds)


Barry Middleton (Doncaster)

Rugby Sevens

Tom Powell (Sheffield)


Geri Buckley (Snaith)

Matt French (Beverley)


Emma Beddoes (Leeds)

Jenny Duncalf (Harrogate)

Sarah Kippax (Halifax)

Nick Matthew (Sheffield)

James Willstrop (Pontefract)


Aimee Willmott (Midd’bro)

Eleanor Faulkner (Sheffield)

Lizzie Simmonds (Beverley)

Becky Turner (Rotherham)

Sophie Taylor (Leeds)

Joe Roebuck (Rotherham)

Lewis Coleman (Sheffield)

Max Litchfield (Sheffield)

Nicholas Grainger (Sheffield)

Gareth Mills (Scarborough)

Table Tennis

Paul Drinkhall (Midd’bro)

Hannah Hicks (Sheffield)

Karina Le Fevre (Sheffield)

Daniel Reed (Northallerton)

Kelly Sibley (Sheffield)


Alistair Brownlee (Leeds)

Jonathan Brownlee (Leeds)

Lucy Hall (Leeds)

Victoria Holland (Leeds)


Sarah Davies (Leeds)

Ali Jawad (Leeds)

Jack Oliver (Leeds)

Rebekah Tiler (Keighley)