As the 2018 Commonwealth Games wrap up, Tasmania’s competitors have been reflecting on the state’s record performance and looking ahead to the next stage of their careers.
Ten gold medals (including two winners in hockey and basketball team victories) and four silvers far exceeded Tasmania’s previous best total haul of seven at the last home Games in Melbourne in 2006.
Hobart hockey player Eddie Ockenden claimed his third Commonwealth title but said how much he had enjoyed watching the success of fellow Tasmanians.
“It’s just awesome to see Tasmanians doing well and supporting the Australian medal tally,” said the triple Olympian and two-time World Cup winner.
“We’re in a pretty unique situation where we’re very well represented at these Games and really look out for each other. We make a real point of trying to find the other Tasmanians and saying g’day and introducing yourselves. We’re very lucky to have that small community where we can follow each other.
“For me it was awesome to see Amy (Cure) do well and also Jake (Birtwhistle), it was just extraordinary to have so many on the first day, it was really good to watch. I was stoked for Amy, it’s great for her.”
Ockenden, who became a dad nine months ago, said the Gold Coast had provided a contrasting experience to New Delhi and Glasgow.
“The Games have been awesome. Obviously playing our games are the best bit but the whole thing has been a great experience,” he said.
“It’s hard to compare them but just by being here in Australia it’s been really different and an awesome experience.
“For hockey in Australia to have this venue and this crowd is just really good fun. We’re very lucky and the Commonwealth Games have been so good for hockey.”
Ockenden’s Kookaburras teammate Jeremy Edwards, also of Hobart, revealed how much support the Tasmanians had received on the Gold Coast.
“Before the Games I had messages from Tassie saying good luck and people looking forward to watching us,” Edwards said.
“A multi-sport event gives a bit more publicity for hockey which we don’t normally get so a lot of people that would like to watch hockey but don’t get the chance were right behind us.
“It’s good to get that support from home and we don’t forget the support that we get from Tassie and keep it coming because we’re proud to represent the state.”
Hobart javelin thrower Hamish Peacock backed up his bronze medal in 2014 with a silver in front of a home nation crowd and said the two experiences were vastly different.
“I only came in late here because my event is late on the program whereas Glasgow I was in Europe weeks before,” Peacock said.
“Glasgow was a pretty awesome atmosphere to be honest and Gold Coast is too from what I’ve seen.”
After such a successful Commonwealth Games, many Tasmanians were already looking to build on that at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“I’ll be heading over to Europe to compete and the world champs are not until September or October next year so it’s quite a big gap in major comps,” Peacock added.
“I want to smack out a PB that would be really good for my confidence. I feel like I’ve got plenty left in me and I’m just coming into form now.
“I need to set myself up as a high-80s thrower so I can really perform. Javelin is very deep at the moment so I really need to be in the mid-high-80s to be in the mix.”
After superbly handling a seven-race program in which she finished just 0.04 seconds away from seven wins, Launceston freestyle swimmer Ariarne Titmus said she hopes to tackle exactly the same events (200m, 400m, 800m and 4x200m relay) at what would be her maiden Olympic Games.
“Definitely. It pretty much all went to plan this week,” said the 17-year-old triple national champion who claimed a record Tasmanian medal haul of three golds and a silver on the Gold Coast.
“I would’ve liked to go quicker in the 800 but I blew myself away in the 200 and 400 so I’m excited by that.
“I’m happy to represent Tassie, I’m happy to represent Queensland and happy to represent Australia and just glad I could do the country proud.”
Hobart’s Kaity Fassina lived up to her Commonwealth ranking of second by landing the silver medal in the 90-kilogram weightlifting and would love to make the step up to Olympic level.
“The aim now is training to see if I can make Tokyo,” she said.
“It’s a lot harder to go to the Olympics because there’s not many positions, usually only one male and one female, so it is a lot more competitive, but that is certainly something that I’ll be thinking about.”
Having helped Australia add the Commonwealth crown to its world title in the fledgling mixed team relay discipline, Launceston triathlete Jake Birtwhistle can’t wait to see the event make its Olympic debut in Japan.
“It’s going to be an amazing Olympic event,” he said.
“I think everyone has really stepped up since it was made an Olympic event in 2020 in Tokyo.
“We Australians won the world champs last year and now we’ve shown once again that we are the best mixed team relay team in the world so we’re in a great position and there’s plenty of athletes that could take us to victory again in 2020.
“Being 23 I’m still quite young and Luke (Willian) and Matt (Hauser) are even younger so it puts not only myself but the country in a great position to be a triathlon force moving forward. We’re just coming into our peak.”
Birtwhistle’s former Tasmanian cross-country rival Stewart McSweyn is another with Tokyo on his radar, after finishing fifth and 11th in the 5000m and 10,000m on the Gold Coast.
“I’ll be 24 so I think a good age to have a shot at 5 or 10 and I haven’t given up on the steeple either so we’ll wait and see. I’m happy doing all of them,” said the King Islander.
“I think I did a qualifier when I ran my only 1500 this year so I’m not going too bad at four events and we’ll just see where the next year or two takes me.
“I’m stoked with these Games. I’ve had phenomenal support and hopefully they can continue to give me good support going forward.”
Jack Hale also has age on his side as the Hobart 19-year-old looks ahead after helping Australia finish fourth in the 4x100m relay.
“Next year I’m tipping some very big things so I’ll have a big crack at the off-season, put some work into the body, come out again next year and run fast,” he said.
“I still like to call Tassie home but own a house in Melbourne now and that’s where I train from. But I will get home to Tassie, hopefully for a month, have a bit of a break and then go back to Melbourne.”
The sprinter has big goals for Tokyo.
“Individually and in the relay. I think I can do big things and I think this relay team is just a huge prospect going forward. I really believe we can tip that national record of 38.1.”
THE FULL STORY
Ariarne Titmus: 200m freestyle, heat 1st, final SILVER; 4x200m freestyle relay GOLD; 800m freestyle, heat 1st, final GOLD; 400m freestyle, heat 1st, final GOLD
Jake Birtwhistle: men’s triathlon, SILVER; mixed teams relay GOLD
Amy Cure: women’s team pursuit, qualifying 1st, final GOLD; women’s points race, 7th; women’s scratch race GOLD
Georgia Baker: women’s points race, 21st
Rebecca Van Asch: bowls, women’s fours, d Papua New Guinea 41-1, d Cook Islands 15-9, d Namibia 23-9, d Malaysia 14-13, quarter-final d Malaysia 14-12, semi-final d Canada 10-9, final d South Africa 18-16 GOLD; women’s triples, d Papua New Guinea 32-12, d India 20-11, d Canada 20-13, d Fiji 24-9, quarter-final d Northern Ireland 30-5, semi-final d England 16-13, final d Scotland 21-12 GOLD
Chris Goulding, Lucas Walker: men’s basketball, d Canada 95-55, d New Zealand 79-73, d Nigeria 97-55, semi-final d Scotland 103-46, d Canada 87-47 GOLD (x2)
Eddie Ockenden, Jeremy Edwards: men’s hockey, d South Africa 4-0, d Scotland 6-1, d Canada 4-0, d New Zealand 2-1, semi-final d England 2-1, final d New Zealand 2-0 GOLD (x2)
Huw Peacock: men’s hammer, 11th
Stewart McSweyn: men’s 5000m, 5th; 10,000m, 11th
Kaity Fassina: women’s 90kg weightlifting, SILVER
Sam Walker: men’s T38 100m, 6th
Danielle McConnell: women’s hammer, 8th
Hamish Peacock: men’s javelin, qualification 1st, final SILVER
Jack Hale: 4x100m relay, heat 2nd, final 4th