Six lawn bowls para-athletes and seven weightlifters have become the first athletes named to the New Zealand Team for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
The athletes were formally welcomed to the team at a function in Auckland farewelling the Queen’s Baton, which has been touring New Zealand as the symbol of the Commonwealth Games.
The weightlifting athletes are:
- David Liti – Men’s 109+kg
- Koale Junior Tasi Taala - Men’s 109kg (conditional upon national eligibility classification)
- Cameron McTaggart – Men’s 81kg
- Vester Villalon – Men’s 73kg
- Hayley Whiting – Women’s 87kg
- Megan Signal – Women’s 71kg
- Emma McIntyre – Women’s 64kg
The lawn bowls para athletes are:
- Sue Curran (B2 - B3 Mixed Pair) Director Bronwyn Milne
- Deane Robertson (B2 - B3 Mixed Pair) Director Kevin Smith (Robertson’s selection conditional upon international classification)
- Pam Walker (B6 - B8 Women's Pair)
- Lynda Bennett (B6 - B8 Women's Pair)
- Mark Noble (B6 - B8 Men's Pair)
- Graham Skellern (B6 - B8 Men's Pair)
The experienced lawn bowlers are thrilled to be heading to Birmingham with Pam Walker and Lynda Bennett saying they are ‘over the moon!’.
The pair have regularly competed with and against each other at domestic level, and are looking forward to proving their mettle on the international stage.
Birmingham 2022 will be the second Games for Bennett, with Walker to make her Commonwealth debut.
“My family, children and grandchildren are super supportive and excited that I have been selected, this opportunity means so much to me,” said Walker.
“This is proof that you should always dream BIG, you never know what you can achieve, keep the mind positive and thoughts strong”.
In the B6-B8 men’s pairs event, Graham Skellern is set to trade the pen for the jack as he makes his Commonwealth debut.
Skellern is a renowned sport and business journalist, and got the ‘bowls bug’ after covering bowls at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane.
“When I realised the opportunity, representing New Zealand in bowls became the ultimate dream,” said Graham Skellern.
“I am so excited playing back in England – having spent a season there in Cambridge in the late 1980s, and we have every chance of bringing back a gold medal for New Zealand.”
Skellern will be joined by two-time Commonwealth Games silver medallist Mark Noble in the pair.
“The Commonwealth Games are a special event to be selected for,” said Noble.
“I’m really keen to perform well in honour of my late friend and bowls legend, Barry Wynks, who I competed alongside at the last two Commonwealth Games.”
Sue Curran and director Bronwyn Milne, alongside Dean Robertson and Kevin Smith have also been named to contest the B2-B3 Mixed Pairs event.
Bowls New Zealand head coach and Commonwealth Games medallist, Mike Kernaghan said “The New Zealand Lawn Bowls Para team has a strong history of good results at the Commonwealth Games and we look forward to these athletes adding to this legacy.”
The weightlifting squad is also a mature team with some exciting new faces in the mix. Liti, McTaggart, and Villalon return for their second Commonwealth Games, while the other four athletes will be making their Commonwealth debut.
25-year-old Liti heads to Birmingham as the defending Commonwealth Games champion, and off the back of a fifth placing at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
“It’s always a privilege to wear fern on my chest,” said Liti.
“It means a lot that I can compete at this level and hopefully bring back another medal for my country and team. It’s a big deal that I can show off my hard work and I’m planning on bringing home those treats.”
For teammate Signal, the Birmingham Commonwealth Games offers at shot at finally getting to wear the fern and compete at a major multi-Games event.
“Last Commonwealth Games I was conditionally selected but had to pull out due to injury. Then I went to Tokyo for the Olympics and injured myself a few days before competition which was heartbreaking,” said Signal.
“Since then I’ve had surgery and am feeling good. Making Birmingham means more to me than it would have if I hadn’t had so much of a fight to get here. It’s been a long road with lots of ups and downs but I’m really grateful and I’m fired up for it!”
Olympic Weightlifting NZ President Simon Kent says he’s excited about the potential of the team.
“We’re really happy with the strength of this team and are looking forward to showing what we can do in Birmingham,” said Kent.
“It’s also great to have a team which is really representative of the rich diversity we have in the weightlifting community."
NZOC CEO Kereyn Smith extended her congratulations to the weightlifting and lawn bowls athletes.
“We’re thrilled to name our first athletes to the New Zealand Team for Birmingham 2022,” said Smith.
“A lot of work has gone in to get them to this point and there’s a lot more work to be done between now and July to ensure they achieve their goals at Games time. I wish them all the best with the rest of their training as they prepare to wear the fern with pride and do us proud.”
Smith also acknowledged incoming NZOC CEO Nicki Nicol, who begins in the role today.
The event also served as the farewell for the Queen’s Baton, which has been touring New Zealand to promote the Commonwealth Games.
The Baton visited Gisborne, Napier, Wellington and Auckland connecting New Zealanders with current and legacy athletes as the team prepares for Birmingham 2022, which is to be held from July 28th to August 8th.
We welcome the weightlifting and lawn bowls para athletes to the NZ Team alongside our partners on the road with us to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games; AUT, Barfoot & Thompson, JCDecaux, Jennian Homes, Mr Apple, Peak, Ryman Healthcare, Sky, Sport New Zealand, The Warehouse Group, Toyota and our Performance Delivery Partner, High Performance Sport New Zealand