The wait is over.
For many, it's been four years in the making. For others, it's a life-long dream come true.
The 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham get underway today and sports fans have 12 action-packed days of competition to look forward to.
From beach volleyball to weightlifting, netball to badminton and gymnastics to swimming, it is set to be a great showcase of sporting excellence.
Lanarkshire will be well-represented at the Games and, here, we profile 15 of the local stars going for Games glory down south.
Kirsty Gilmour, Bothwell
Games veteran Kirsty has targeted a ‘career-defining’ gold medal in Birmingham.
The 28-year-old, who has a silver from Glasgow 2014 and a bronze from Gold Coast 2018, said: “A gold medal would be huge, career-defining.
“I have to go in thinking about performance, first of all, and if I get that right, then it will be gold medal-worthy.
“I want to complete that set. “
Alex Dunn, Motherwell
Alex Dunn hopes everything he has sacrificed for the sport is aimed at a gold medal.
The 23-year-old has risen to prominence in recent years, alongside doubles partner Adam Hall from Mauchline, and the pair won silver at the European Championships in Madrid two months ago.
Dunn said: “I think this is our time. Compared to the last Games, myself, Adam and the team definitely have different expectations on this one.
“We’re looking to do as best we can, to trouble these pairs as we know we can do on the day.
“We’ve got to do everything we can to put ourselves in that position that we want to cause an upset, we want to get that medal, and I’m looking forward to the challenge."
Stewart Anderson, Hamilton
Eddlewood star Stewart is gunning for double medal glory in lawn bowls and wants a gold.
He is competing in triples and fours at Victoria Park, Royal Leamington Spa, on August 1 and 6 in his debut Games, where he will team up with fellow Lanarkshire star Ian McLean.
And said: “Playing with Scotland, we are one of the best nations at bowls. We always expect something, and the team four years ago came away with two or three golds.
"I would love two medals, but I would love a gold medal.”
Caroline Brown, Motherwell
Commonwealth Games 2018 silver medallist Caroline Brown says winning gold at Birmingham 2022 would be ‘out of this world’ after getting the call to represent her country once again.
Having won Scotland’s first ever women’s triples medal when she, Kay Moran and Stacey McDougall took silver on the Gold Coast in 2018, Brown says it would be an incredible achievement to go one better.
NHS Lanarkshire worker Brown, from Motherwell, is no stranger to this level of competition, and said: “It’s my fourth time and I’m really looking forward to it.
“I’m hoping to go one further this time. Winning gold would be out of this world, it really would, and that’s everything as a player.
“In the outdoor game, I suppose that’s our absolute pinnacle in outdoor bowls and that’s what you want to strive towards."
Iain McLean, Lesmahagow
Bowls champion Iain McLean says Commonwealth Games pressure is on him and team-mate Stewart Anderson – because they effectively replaced two gold medallists.
Blantyre Miners’ Welfare Indoor Bowling Club star McLean and Anderson have been drafted into the squad, while double 2018 gold medallists Derek Oliver and Ronnie Duncan didn’t make the cut.
And the 38-year-old that puts pressure on, and also shows how high the selection criteria is.
Iain said: “There’s always pressure, in terms of representing Scotland, because Scotland is highly regarded as one of the best nations in the world, so you’re expected to do well and be at the top end of things.
“Myself and Stewart, to a degree, we’ve got in the team at the expense of two guys who won two gold medals in 2018 in the Gold Coast, so it’s an indication of just how tough selection is and how competitive things are.
“That’s an added aspect that people will be saying straight away, if me and Stewart weren’t to medal."
Elidh Gorrell, Hamilton
The 17-year-old is bursting with excitement after being selected as one of just four competitors to reach the women’s team.
She joins clubmate Cara Kennedy from The City of Glasgow Gymnastics Club, and Emily Bremner from Dundee, along with Shannon Archer of South Essex Gymnastics Club, as they go for gold in their competition which runs from July 29 to August 2.
Eilidh has just finished fifth year at St John Ogilvie High and has been training hard over the summer and looking forward to the Commonwealth Games.
She said: “I’m so excited for the Games. I just want to enjoy and embrace the experience and use this as a good start to my career. At first I was in shock and almost didn’t believe it. It is starting to sink in now.”
Emma Barrie, Stonehouse
Emma says she has been working hard to get a chance in the Scottish Thistles, and intends to seize that opportunity.
Thistles are in a very testing Group A with Australia, Jamaica, South Africa, Wales and Barbados, with the Aussies first up on Saturday, July 30.
The Stonehouse star is going into her first Games and is looking forward to it.
Emma - one of six Lanarkshire players in Team Scotland's netball squad - said: “It has been a lot of hard work behind the scenes, anad I’m so happy that I’ve been selected.
“I just want to put in performances to be proud of.”
Kelly Boyle, Coatbridge
Kelly Boyle says being part of the 2022 Commonwealth Games with the Scottish Thistles is a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ that she intends to grab.
The Strathclyde Sirens star, 26, knows it will be tough for Scotland, but is looking forward to the action taking place and hopefully playing her part.
She said: “We’ve been training for so long and we have been counting down with each camp every weekend. Now that it’s finally here, I think we’re all just excited.
“Now we can enjoy it, now that we’ve done the training, and we’re ready to go out and perform.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and it only comes round every so often, so once you go out there it’s about relishing the moment."
Lynsey Gallagher, East Kilbride
Gallagher aims to repay a lot of faith when she takes to the court with Scottish Thistles at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
She is competing in her third Commonwealth Games, has recovered from a potentially career-threatening knee injuries in recent years, but is grateful to be included in Tamsin Greenway’s 12-strong squad.
The 30-year-old former Duncanrig High School pupil said: “There has been a bit of faith shown in me, but there was ever any doubt that I wasn’t going to work hard.
“I’ve always had that mind-set, that I want to be the best that I can be, and if I’m in a squad I always want to be up there, knowing I can do a job for the team.
“We want to put out really solid, consistent performances, and we’re there to win, bot just to take part and make up the numbers.
“There are games that we really want to target, because we know what our hopes and expectations are, as a squad.”
Beth Goodwin, Cambuslang
Beth Goodwin says Scotland can look forward to the 2022 Commonwealth Games with confidence, because they know what they’re capable of.
The Strathclyde Sirens star says preparation has been good for the competition in Birmingham, and there’s a good mix of youth and experience in their ranks.
And the 23-year-old from Cambuslang says the aim is to solidify Scotland’s place in the world rankings.
Goodwin said: “This is a great opportunity to play against some of the best netballers in the world, more than anything.
“I just want to go out and enjoy it, and hopefully put out some performances to be proud of.
“We definitely have a mixed team. We’re all still quite young, and there is a mix of youth and experience.
“That’s always a good thing, because the young ones go in fearless, but we’re here to remind them that if they are feeling like that, there’s nothing to lose.
“We’ve had such good preparation for the Games, so we know what we’re capable of."
Niamh McCall, Strathaven
The 22-year-old is determined to make the most of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, having been named in Tamsin Greenway’s 12-strong Scottish Thistle squad.
Niamh was part of the squad at Gold Coast 2018, but didn’t get much time on the court. This time around, the Strathclyde Sirens star hopes to make a name for herself in Birmingham.
Ex-Strathaven Academy pupil McCall said: “I was selected last time for Gold Coast in 2018, when I was really young, really inexperienced, so to be selected now as one of the more experienced and senior players is really exciting.
“I really didn’t get a lot of game-time the last time, so it will be a completely new experience, being on court – fingers crossed – for a bit more than last time.”
Emily Nicholl, Biggar
Emily Nicholl hopes she’s done enough to earn the vice-captain title at Scottish Thistles as she prepares to play a leading role at the Commonwelath Games this week.
The Biggar star is second-in-command to Claire Maxwell at the Birmingham 2022 showpiece and is delighted with that honour.
The 28-year-old said: “It really is a fantastic honour, and it’s the first time within the Thistles environment that I’ve had that kind of title, as such.
“But nothing about what I do on my daily basis really changes – I just continue to do what I do, and the title goes with it.
“But it’s great to work so closely with Claire Maxwell and to go to work closely with [head coach] Tamsin Greenway and [assistant] Sara Francis-Bayman.
“It’s such an honour and I’m really proud of it."
Grant Sheldon, Hamilton
The Hamilton 27-year-old has qualified for his third successive Games and is ready to mix it with the big boys.
He said: “A medal is always on the cards. It’s a deep field, but it’s not ridiculously deep, and I definitely have the capability to mix it with the best – but we’ll just need to wait and see.
“Gold would be a career pinnacle.”
Jodey Hughes, Strathaven
The 39-year-old says she is at the peak of her powers as she aims for medal glory.
Jodey, who competed at the last Games in 2018 and finished ninth, will compete in the 55kg category on Saturday night in a straight final and said: “My prep has never been better.
"In training I’m lifting more than ever, which is really positive.
“I’m feeling really confident. It’s one opportunity for me. It’s all or nothing.”
Abbie Fountain, Rutherglen
The 18-year-old has been juggling her training with a part-time job and the former Cathkin High pupil is aiming to make the most of the experience.
She said: “I’m looking forward to my first big Games, and just being in a big international contest, really.
“I’ve not had many chances for contests like this in the past couple of years because of Covid, so it’s really exciting.
“This might be the last Games with wrestling in it for a while, as it’s an optional sport, so I’m glad I’m getting the chance to take part.
"It should be a great learning experience.”
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