NEW DELHI, September 23 – Usain Bolt and a host of other marquee names may have said 'thanks, but no thanks' to the Commonwealth Games, but the October 3-14 event is not entirely lacking in star quality.
Here is AFP’s 10 to watch:
Rebecca Adlington (Swimming)
– Ended a two decade British Olympic drought in 2008 when she captured Beijing gold in the 400m and 800m. The unassuming 21-year-old is desperate to recapture that form after a disastrous European championships where bronze was the best she could muster.
Sania Mirza (Tennis)
– Cue packed stands and tight security as the poster girl of Indian tennis prepares to be the Games most photographed woman. Part of an Asian golden couple (her other half is Pakistan cricket star Shoaib Malik), Mirza should medal in a weak-looking tournament.
Caster Semenya (Athletics)
– Stunned track and field with a come-from-nowhere performance at the world championships in Berlin in 2009 where she stormed to the 800m gold. It all fell apart after an embarrassing and very public debate over her gender. Has been cleared to run as a female and the Games will be the South African’s first major event since her return.
Nicol David (Squash)
– Undisputed queen of squash, the Malaysian world number one combines grace, movement and pinpoint accuracy which has taken her to xxxxx World Opens (AK note – she was chasing fifth in a row at Sharm el Sheikh this week). The 27-year-old became the first Asian woman to top the world rankings and went on to earn the prestigious title of ‘Datuk’ and become the first recipient of her country’s Order of Merit.
Emily Seebohm (Swimming)
– Australia was stunned by the withdrawal of golden girl and Olympic champion Stephanie Rice, but 18-year-old Seebohm is poised to snatch the headlines after winning six medals at the Pan Pacifics. The teenager, who beat US world record holder Ariana Kukors in the 200m individual medley at the Pan Pacs, will swim eight events in New Delhi.
Steve Hooker (Athletics)
– Olympic polevault champion Hooker is captain of the Australian track and field team with a crucial role to play in a squad missing experienced Jana Rawlinson, John Steffensen and and Craig Mottram. Australia won 14 track and field golds in Melbourne in 2006.
Brimin Kipruto (Athletics)
– With 800m world record holder David Rushida opting to skip the Games, Kenya’s track and field hopes still burn bright. Olympic 3,000m steeplechase champion Brimin Kipruto, the 2007 world champion, will be looking to complete a golden career treble. He set the world leading time of 8:01.62 in Lausanne in July.
Samaresh Jung (Shooting)
– India’s top pistol shooter was named the athlete of the Commonwealth Games in 2006 after bagging five gold medals, one silver and a bronze. Earned the nickname of "Goldfinger", but is gloomy over medal prospects after team found themselves without a coach since 2008.
Hosea Gear (Rugby Sevens)
– Flying former All Blacks winger is key to New Zealand’s hopes of a fourth successive gold medal. Suffering from a hamstring injury recently but keen to emulate brother Rico who was part of the gold medal-winning squad in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur.
Shuja-ud-din Malik (Weightlifting)
– Secured Pakistan’s only gold medal of the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, when he took the 85kg title. He had been one kilo behind after the snatch, but then lifted a Commonwealth Games record 193kg in the clean and jerk for victory.