SYDNEY, September 28 – Australia is sending its largest ever team to an offshore Games in a bid to continue its domination of the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.Australia has topped the gold and total medal tallies at the past five Commonwealths and is expected to once again be confirmed as the number one nation.
It will be their most expensive Games campaign with the Australian Commonwealth Games Association budgeting 13.5 million dollars (12.6 million US) on assembling a 378-strong team.
Australia will be looking to its traditional strengths for the bulk of its medals.
Swimming, track and field, field hockey and cycling are generally prolific medal-yielding sports for Australia, while the nation has high expectations in gymnastics, diving, netball, tennis and boxing.
Although the country’s high-water mark of 221 medals — 84 gold, 69 silver and 68 bronze — at the 2006 Melbourne Games is unlikely to be surpassed in India, team officials expect another gold rush.
Australia’s record gold medal haul came at the 1994 Victoria Games in Canada with 87.
But their chances have been dimmed by the absence of two-time major tennis champion Lleyton Hewitt and French Open finalist Sam Stosur.
Triple Olympic gold medallist swimmer Stephanie Rice, former world high bar champion Philippe Rizzo and reigning Commonwealth 400-metre champion runner John Steffensen are also missing.
Although Rice won’t be there, Emily Seebohm, 18, could become one of the faces of the Games as she is entered in eight events at the Mukherjee Aquatics Complex.
Seebohm won six medals at the Pan Pacs in California in August, including two gold, and she could emulate Susie O’Neill and Ian Thorpe, who won six gold medals at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Games and the 2002 Manchester Games respectively.
Seven-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist Leisel Jones, former world champion Jessicah Schipper and former world record holder Eamon Sullivan feature in a strong Australian team.
"Australia has a fantastic tradition at the Commonwealth Games and with the swim team getting the chance to compete at the start of the Games, we know we have a responsibility to start well," head coach Leigh Nugent said.
Australia’s ‘Kookaburras’ men’s field hockey team are bidding to follow up their World Cup and Champions Trophy successes this year with the gold medal in Delhi.
They are one of Australia’s most successful teams having only lost one match, while claiming every gold medal since field hockey was introduced to the Commonwealth Games in 1998.
Olympic, world and Commonwealth pole vault champion Steve Hooker will be one of the world’s top athletes competing and he is looking forward to rounding off his season with his first trip to India.
"The Games are a great competition. It’s got a fantastic vibe, it’s definitely one of the funnest events to compete at and very satisfying to win," he said.
Seven current world champions have been named in Australia’s cycling team, headlined by 2004 Olympic and reigning Commonwealth Games champion Anna Meares.
The ‘Cyclones’ are aiming to replicate their dominant performance on both the road and track at the 2006 Games and the UCI World Track Cycling Championships in Copenhagen last March where they finished as the number one ranked country.