England ended the Commonwealth Youth Games in some style today, winning gold medals in six out of the seven sports contested on the Isle of Man to finish top of the medal table ahead of Australia.
In all England’s young athletes won 19 gold medals on the final day to finish with 37 overall, eight more than Australia who had topped the table for the first two days.
English dominance was already assured by the time Ben Ryan’s rugby7s squad added the final victorious flourish to the day with a 41-20 victory in the floodlit grand final against South Africa this evening as England had already added five golds from boxing and gymnastics, six from athletics, and one each from swimming and cycling to the overnight total.
There were sackfuls of silver and bronze medals too, as England’s overall medal total at the end of the Games stands at an impressive 77.
After first going top of the table late in the afternoon, it was actually the team’s boxers who put England out of reach as all but one of tonight’s finalists won their bouts at the Villa Marina on Douglas seafront.
Five wins was what team leader Martin Webb had predicted and five were delivered, meaning Webb had to live up to his promise to wear a much-hated baseball cap. So good were his boxers, however, that Webb’s embarrassment was buried beneath great pride.
“I really couldn’t ask for any more,” he said. “I’m so proud. We’ve played a big part in getting England over the line as top nation tonight and that’s great.
“We are the top boxing nation by a mile. All seven boxers won medals here, we have five golds, one silver and one bronze. With 20 wins from 22 bouts, it’s been a near perfect tournament.”
In some ways, the task was toughest for young Jack Bateson, the 17-year-old light flyweight, and self-declared “baby of the bunch”, who had to box first. Fighting India’s Rahul Poona, the sports student from Leeds knew he had to get the session off to a winning start.
“I did feel a bit of pressure,” he said after winning comfortably. “But I was confident. I just wanted to get in and get it done. I didn’t feel I boxed my best but my body aches from the tournament so I just boxed cleverly. I didn’t want to get into a fight.”
Bateson was followed by flyweight Samson Sykes who felt he boxed “perfect” to overcome the talented Australian Jackson Woods before bantamweight boxer Qais Ashfaq destroyed Canadian Jessy Brown with a bravura display of skill.
Lightweight Henry Thomas had a third tough fight in three bouts but the Darlington boxer summoned the energy to come back from one point down before the final round to win by one at the end.
That was four from four, but dreams of the clean sweep went when a brave effort from light welterweight Darren Tetley was not quite good enough in a bruising battle against Australia’s Daniel Lewis. Tetley, from Bradford’s Platinum boxing academy, fought himself to a standstill and lost by just three points.
“I am disappointed because it was so close,” said the 18-year-old afterwards. “But I guess the better man won on the day. I knew I was down at the end so it was all or nothing. At least I went down fighting.
“To me it is all about the team,” he added. “Silver is fantastic, it puts me on the ladder to better things.”
Damon Jones then rounded things off with a measured five-point win in his welterweight fight against Scotland’s Kieran Smith.
“The one we lost was a shame,” said Webb. “But Darren gave it all and you can’t ask for more than that.”
England’s women gymnasts got the gold ball rolling earlier in the day when they bounded back to the top of the podium, winning three of the four competitions on individual apparatus, while all three of England’s male gymnasts added to their medal tallies as Dominick Cunningham took his third gold of the Games.
It was a case of one a-piece for England’s female trio as Rebecca Tunney took the vault title and Charlie Fellows the uneven bars, while all-around bronze medallist Abi Caig weighed in at the end, winning gold on the floor after earlier finishing third in the vault.
Tunney was third on the floor, and Fellows also picked up a bronze medal on the beam as Emma Nedov claimed Australia’s one victory of the day.
For Tunney, victory made up for missing out in yesterday’s all around competition.
“I knew I had to come back and prove myself today so I’m very pleased,” said the Manchester gymnast. “I thought the bars would be my best chance of a gold but I made a mistake so it was great that I managed to win the vault.”
Fellows, from Sandbach, said: “This has been a great experience and I’ve learnt a lot. I knew that I had a good chance on the bars - I’ve done the routine loads of times in the gym so I just tried to concentrate and pretend I was just training.”
Medals for the bars were presented by Beth Tweddle, a world champion on the bars and former CYG champion, who trains at the same City of Liverpool club as Tunney and Caig.
“It’s really nice to be here as I did the Games in Bendigo in 2004.,” said Tweddle. “It was a great help to me in my career and so it’s nice to see Rebecca and Abi getting the same experience. Australia would normally beat us so it’s great to see England on top of the podium. It bodes well as it shows we’re doing the right things at junior level and hopefully we can carry that on through to the seniors.”
Women’s coach Claire Duffy agreed: “It has been an amazing opportunity for them to be part of a multi-sport games. England is now starting to step up in gymnastics and all their hard work has paid off this weekend.”
After dominating the team and individual all-around competitions, Cunningham was tipped to take a bagful of precious metal home today and the Birmingham gymnast ended with one of each colour from his five finals, while Jay Thompson led an England one-two in the parallel bars ahead of Brinn Bevan.
Thompson also won silver on the pommel, while Bevan took silver on the floor behind Australia’s Declan Stacey.
After finishing second in the vault and third in the pommel, Cunningham knew he had one last chance of victory in the high bar. Hampered by a right ankle injury and sore muscles all over, he secured his one gold of the day with his very last exercise of three hard days of competition.
“It’s been really painful,” he said. “Three days in a row is hard but I tried to just grit my teeth and go for it.
“On the high bar I just wanted to go clean. I knew I needed to stick the dismount to win. It hurt, but I did it.”
Thompson grabbed his second gold of the Games with some style, scoring a personal best on the parallel bars. “It was my best performance ever,” he said. “I did well on the high bar too – for the third day in a row I haven’t fallen off.
“My body is aching but it’s been worth it.”
For Bevan, the youngster in the team, winning two silver medals was a great way to end. “Considering I’m only 14 I think I’ve done pretty well,” he said.
Hannah Barnes defied the wind and rain which swept along the Douglas sea front this afternoon to win the women’s criterium in a sprint finish ahead of Welshwoman Elinor Barker.
It was a second individual win for the Towcester cyclist, and her fourth in all, and it came at the end of a race delayed by 30 minutes. Barnes, who won the time trial on Friday, was followed home by Lucy Garner as the Leicestershire girl added a bronze medal to her gold from the road race yesterday.
"I’ve made the podium on all three events so I’m pretty chuffed,” said Barnes, who crossed the line in front of the Villa Marina two bike lengths in front of Barker after the pair had broken away from the rest of the field.
With her team-mates Garner and Harriet Owen allowing the Australians to do all the chasing, it all came down to Barnes’ finishing speed.
“I knew I could beat her,” she said. “I was pretty confident because I know I’ve got a good sprint but it was quite slippery so I wanted to get away from the people on the tight corners to stay out of danger.
“I didn’t really know what to expect before I came here. I wanted to compare myself to the Australians, so to win two events is pretty good.”
Two is a pretty good medal haul for Jon Dibben too, as the Brockenhurst cyclist took silver in the men’s criterium to go