Track stars will regret missing Commonwealth Games, say organisers

The Commonwealth Games’ stayaway stars will regret missing out on glory in Birmingham, defiant organisers have insisted.

Four world champions from Eugene have swerved the Games, including the women’s 100m gold medallist, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who is in Birmingham to train but has chosen instead to race in Europe next week.

The women’s 200m champion, Shericka Jackson, 400m world champion, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, and 1500m gold medallist Faith Kipyegon are also missing, taking much of the shine off the track and field programme.

However, Ian Reid, the chief executive officer for Birmingham 2022, insisted that those athletes – and other absent stars such as the diver Tom Daley and gymnast Max Whitlock – would be regretting their decision after seeing the huge crowds and atmosphere in Birmingham.

“We can’t make people come here but, if Shelly-Ann was here earlier and saw the atmosphere and the full stadium, she probably regrets it,” he said. “To have 30,000 people in Alexander Stadium for every session of athletics, the atmosphere it’s created, I can’t think of anywhere for these athletes to be.

“We’re delighted with the athletes that have turned up. Of course there are some others who aren’t here but my personal opinion is they will probably regret that.” That view was backed by the legendary decathlete Daley Thompson, who won three gold medals at the Commonwealth Games during his career.

“I think that everybody has a choice and I think back in the day, it was less about earning a living and more about glory – for yourself and your country,” he said.” If there are people that want to earn a living and go and race in Zurich or wherever that might be, that’s fair enough. But from my own point of view, it was only ever about winning championships and being the best.

“But I think everyone is entitled to their choice but the people who go for the money are missing out because it’s a brilliant place to be. The Olympic champion, Elaine Thompson-Herah, was running today, she’s here. If it’s good enough for her, it’s good enough for most people.”

Thompson-Herah qualified joint-fastest for Wednesday 100m semi-finals, running an impressive 10.99sec. However, England’s Darryl Neita believes she can be the best in Birmingham – and hopes her pet chihuahua, Melon, will be watching on.

Neita also looked superb as she ran 11.02 in her heat. And afterwards she insisted: “I’m always aiming for gold. Any time I step on the track I want gold. I’m going to get as close as I can.”

Elsewhere Laura Muir, who won 1500m bronze in Eugene last month, reached the 800m final in 1min 58.84sec, joining Keely Hodgkinson and Alexandra Bell in Saturday’s showpiece.

Muir, who will double up in the 800m and 1500m at these championships, said: “I feel I’m really competitive in both events. I’ve not run the Commonwealth Games for eight years. It’s on relatively home-ish ground so it’s very close and it was too good an opportunity not to do. I feel strong and fit enough to do both and run well in both.”

Meanwhile Katarina Johnson-Thompson ended the first day of heptathlon leading by 109 points from Northern Ireland’s Kate O’Connor. The defending champion from Liverpool was only fifth after a disappointing 100m hurdles but a clearance of 1.84m in the high jump, followed by a 12.94m shot put and a 23.70sec 200m put her firmly in control.