Our man at the Commonwealth Games picks his top ten performers after 11 days of thrilling competition

Ripon teenager Jack Laugher who won two golds and a silver at the Commonwealth Games

Ripon teenager Jack Laugher who won two golds and a silver at the Commonwealth Games

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

The Commonwealth Games came to a rousing finale on Sunday, bringing an end to 11 days of thrilling sporting competition. Chief Sports Writer Scott Wilson was in Glasgow for the duration of the Games, and selects his top ten performers

Nicola Adams (England, boxing)

The Northern Echo:

Having already created history once as the first female boxer to win an Olympic gold medal, all eyes were on Adams as she attempted to repeat the trick by becoming the first winner of a Commonwealth women’s boxing title.

By her own admission, the 31-year-old flyweight was not quite in the form she had displayed in London, but she still handled the spotlight superbly to see off Northern Ireland’s Michaela Walsh in a bruising final.

With her winning smile and bubbly personality, the black bisexual continues to break down barriers at every turn, and remains on track for a successful Olympic defence in Rio in 2016.

Alistair Brownlee (England, triathlon)

The Northern Echo:

We have grown accustomed to the Brownlee brothers dominating the world of triathlon, so it is easy to take their continued success for granted.

Yet there was still hugely impressive about the way the Yorkshire siblings dominated the Commonwealth triathlon field on the opening day of the Games, with Alistair sprinting clear to win gold while his younger brother, Jonny, claimed silver.

The pair teamed up later in the week to help England claim another gold in the mixed team relay, and while Jonny is getting closer to the top spot, it is Alistair who continues to have the world at his feet, whether in water, on the road or on a bike.

Claudia Fragapane (England, gymnastics)

The Northern Echo:

At the start of the Games, 16-year-old Fragapane was regarded as a promising gymnast, whose career high was a sixth-place finish at the European Team Championships. By the time of the closing ceremony, she was the most successful Englishwoman at a Commonwealth Games for 84 years.

Her haul of four gold medals – team, all-around, vault and floor – was as unparalleled as it was unexpected, with Fragapane’s grace, athleticism and boundless enthusiasm winning her admirers from far beyond the traditional confines of her sport.

It will be interesting to see how she fares at October’s World Championships, but on the evidence of her floor routine in particular in Glasgow, a world-class star has been born.

Jack Laugher (England, diving)

The Northern Echo:

Having flopped at the Olympics at the tender age of 17, with one of his dives going so badly wrong it earned a score of zero, it would have been easy for Laugher to tumble out of the world picture.

Instead, the Ripon teenager set about rehabilitating his reputation, a process that reached a thrilling climax as he claimed two gold medals and a silver over the course of three hugely successful days at Edinburgh’s Royal Commonwealth Pool.

His victory on the 1m springboard was something of a bonus, and while a crucial error deprived him of the 3m crown, he displayed commendable resolve to return less than 24 hours later to win a synchro gold medal with Chris Mears. Even Tom Daley describes Laugher as the rising star of British diving.

Alex Marshall (Scotland, lawn bowls)

It wasn’t just the gold medals in the pairs and fours that led to ‘Tattie’ Marshall becoming one of the faces of the Games, not to mention the flagbearer for the Scottish team at the closing ceremony, it was the rotund bowler’s preferred celebration that had a nation chuckling.

Usain Bolt might have the lightning bolt and Mo Farah might have created the Mobot, but Marshall’s ‘Get it up ye’ fist pump was, for many, the defining celebration of Glasgow 2014.

Sports stars come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but few could have expected a portly, shaven-headed bowler to have become a Scottish national hero. The Games would have been a much duller place without him.

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor (England, swimming)

The Northern Echo:

After a disappointing Olympics in London, the Commonwealth Games marked the point at which Britain’s swimmers restored their reputation on the world stage.

There were a host of stand-out performers in the home-nation ranks – Fran Halsall and Sophie Taylor for England, Hannah Miley and Ross Murdoch for Scotland – but O’Connor’s haul of six medals was unsurpassed.

She had already claimed three silvers when she finally won a thoroughly deserved gold, trouncing a high-class field in the 200m Individual Medley final, and at the age of 18, she should be approaching her peak when she heads to Rio for the Olympics in two years time.

Blessing Okagbare (Nigeria, athletics)

The Northern Echo:

There were a host of memorable performances on the track-and-field programme at Hampden Park, but no one outperformed Okagbare, who completed the sprint double by winning gold in the 100m and 200m.

Her 100m success was breathtaking as she smashed the Games record to beat the best that Jamaica had to offer, and she proved it was no fluke when she proved just as dominant over the extra distance of the 200m.

With her dyed blonde hair and tall, imposing frame, the 25-year-old Nigerian is one of athletics’ biggest female stars, and it will be interesting to see how she performs over the next couple of years once the best American sprinters share the same field as her.

Seabelo Senatta (South Africa, rugby sevens)

The rugby sevens tournament was one of the biggest successes of the Games, with more than 150,000 spectators packing into Ibrox over the course of a single weekend, and Senatta was the inspiration behind South Africa’s surprise success.

The 21-year-old winger finished the sevens tournament with 11 tries, with his brace in the final against New Zealand proving crucial as the All Blacks’ 100 per cent Commonwealth record was finally dismantled.

With rugby sevens making its Olympic debut in Rio, the sport’s profile is set to soar over the next few years, and Senatta looks poised to become one of the poster boys for the fastest-growing form of the game.

Lynsey Sharp (Scotland, athletics)

The Northern Echo:

Sometimes, it’s not the winner of a race that makes the biggest impression, but the person who has overcome the most hurdles simply to be there.

Sharp has suffered a succession of problems in recent years, battling against serious injury and struggling to recover from an infected wound that continues to cause her problems, but nothing could have prepared her for the night before her 800m final, when a bout of food poisoning left her in hospital attached to a drip.

She clambered out of her hospital bed to compete in the final, and somehow summoned up the grit and determination required to produce a storming last 100m that saw her claim a silver medal behind Kenya’s Eunice Sum.

Steve Way (England, athletics)

He didn’t win a medal, and he barely finished in the top ten, but for many, 40-year-old English marathon runner Way was the stand-out star of Glasgow 2014.

Seven years ago, he weighed 16-and-a-half stones, was drinking far too much and smoking 20 cigarettes a day. Vowing to turn his life around, he decided to take up running, and the following year he competed in his first London Marathon.

Last weekend, he was the leading British finisher as he came tenth in the Commonwealth Games marathon, and later this month he will compete in a 90km trail race in Sweden. Proof, if ever it was needed, that it is possible to turn your life around.

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