Moment of truth beckons top stars at Commonwealth Games
It would be an understatement to describe the build-up to the Commonwealth Games in Delhi as ‘troubled’.
Hopefully the old adage of ‘it will be alright on the night’ will apply when the opening ceremony gets underway at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium tomorrow.
Northern Ireland’s team of 80 athletes will be led by wrestler Mark Montgomery who will carry the flag.
Montgomery, from Aghalee, competed in the Manchester 2002 Games in the sport of Judo where he finished in fifth place has been delighted to get selected for this role.
“The Commonwealth Games is the only multi-sport event which Northern Ireland can be represented in and to be selected for flagbearer is the biggest sporting honour that anyone could have for their country and for me it is exactly that,” said Montgomery.
“This is also fantastic for wrestling as it will give the sport deserved exposure in NI and throughout the UK. It will be crazy to walk out into the stadium which is now sold out for the Opening Ceremony.
“There is a great team atmosphere in Team Northern Ireland and to walk out in front of them will be the highlight of my sporting career so far..
It’s only 18 months since Montgomery took advantage of Sport NI’s Talent Transfer Initiative swapping his belt for wrestling garb.
He has already had a successful year winning a silver medal in the Sardinian Cup in the spring and a bronze medal in Kosovo. He is coached by John O'Rawe and is a member of the Red Hog Wrestling Club.
The competition will get underway on Monday with swimmers Clare Dawson, Melanie Nocher and Sycerika McMahon and archer Mark Nesbitt among the first local athletes in action.
Nesbitt from Banbridge leads the team of seven archers.
The 18 year-old, from the Ballyvally Archery Club, has had a terrific 18 months that has seen him win two golds at the Australian Youth Olympic festival and silver at the both the World Youth and Junior European Championships.
Then in May he finished sixth in the European Senior Championships in Italy, one place behind the current Olympic gold medalist, Viktor Ruban of the Ukraine, who was fifth.
Given a good draw, he is a medal prospect in the individual event and he’ll partner Ian McGibbon and Karl Watson in the recurve team event.
In the compound class Robert Hall, Darrel Wilson and Stuart Wilson compete while the only female archer is Emma Parker in the compound individual event.
Another man aiming to make his mark is four-time gold medalist David Calvert, now in his ninth Commonwealth Games.
He will be looking to add to his amazing record in the full-bore rifle event in the singles and alongside Ross McQuillan in the pairs.
Loughgall’s finest marksman is David Beattie, silver medal winner at Melbourne four years ago and with every chance of bettering that in the Trap, either in the singles or with Mervyn Morrison from Stewartstown in the pairs.
Gary Duff and Matthew Hall are in the 50m small-bore rifle prone while Hugh Stewart, in his third Games, and Robert Doak are the pistol shooters.
Kirsty Barr won gold in the 2010 Commonwealth Championships earlier this year and has an excellent chance of a medal.