With just over three months until the Opening Ceremony of the XXI Commonwealth Games, 88 athletes have been named to represent Northern Ireland in Gold Coast, Australia.
TeamNI will compete in thirteen sports during the 278 competition sessions of the eleven day programme.
A total of 69 individual athletes have been selected by the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Council while the Netball squad, four Weightlifters and three para-athletes have received direct invitations due to their Commonwealth rankings.
The NI athletes will be joined by sport specific coaches, medical personnel, support staff and a headquarters team bringing the size of the travelling party to 134, the largest Northern Ireland team to ever attend a Commonwealth Games in Australia.
TeamNI boasts members from every local authority area in Northern Ireland making it a truly representative squad which, despite the ten hour time difference, will no doubt receive great support from across the community during the Games.
Gold Coast will be the fifth Australian city to host the Games following Sydney 1938, Perth 1962, Brisbane 1982 and Melbourne 2006 but the country has not been a particularly happy hunting ground for Northern Ireland’s athletes with only nine medals having been earned during the four previous Games down under. With five Silvers and four Bronzes won, a Gold medal in Australia has proved elusive.
Winner of one of those nine medals is David Calvert who was joined by Hazel Mackintosh to win a Full-Bore Shooting Bronze medal in Brisbane 36 years ago. David returns for his eleventh Commonwealth Games and will be seeking to add to his tally of four Gold and four Bronze medals.
Given the high standard of competition to be faced, world class performances will no doubt be on the radar for this TeamNI of 2018.
The ‘usual suspect’ sports of Boxing, Lawn Bowls and Shooting will be chasing spots on the podium but there will also be contenders in other sports including Athletics, Cycling, Gymnastics and Swimming.
Glasgow 2014 medallists Michaela Walsh, Alanna Nihell and Steven Donnelly have again been selected to compete in Boxing while medal winning bowlers Neil Booth and Barbara Cameron are now amongst the coaching staff.
The Games have been billed by GOLDOC as the most inclusive ever and, for the first time at a global multi-sport Games, there is medal equity with an equal number available for men and women.
Gold Coast will also host the largest ever parasport programme at a Commonwealth Games and among the 300 para-athletes will be Northern Ireland’s Jack Agnew (Athletics), Barry McClements (Swimming) and David Kerr (Triathlon).
Northern Ireland Chef de Mission, Robert McVeigh, said: “It’s a great privilege to lead the Northern Ireland team to Australia in April. It’s also an honour for each of our athletes, coaches and support personnel who have all been working extremely hard with a focus on Gold Coast.
"The Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Council has been engaging with member governing bodies and SportNI over the last two years to ensure that the team reflects all that is good within local sport. We will continue to work within the wider team to ensure that each athlete is provided with a suitable environment so they can perform to their best.”
Sport Northern Ireland Chief Executive Antoinette McKeown added: “On behalf of Sport NI, I would like to congratulate all those selected to represent Northern Ireland in the Gold Coast this year.
"The Commonwealth Games provides a unique opportunity to showcase Northern Ireland’s sporting talent. We are delighted to be supporting the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Council and to provide specialist services to TeamNI athletes and coaches. It is particularly pleasing to have several of our specialist colleagues supporting the Team during the Games. Sport NI wishes all members of TeamNI every success in Australia.”
Follow TeamNI on their journey to and at the XXI Commonwealth Games on Facebook Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games and Twitter @GoTeamNI #TEAMNI.