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Breeze shows why Games still matter

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Gordon Farquhar | 12:54 UK time, Friday, 8 October 2010

The value of the Commonwealth Games might be questioned by some, but for athletes like Welsh weightlifter Michaela Breeze, their worth is beyond doubt.

Thursday night saw her final competitive performance, and a silver medal to add to her gold from Melbourne in the 63kg class. Called into the senior GB squad aged just 14, she has given her country 18 years as a competitor, and been regarded for many of them as a pioneer and role model for other women in the sport.

She's quite a performer too. I watched her take gold with grit, determination, and a certain amount of crowd-pleasing cheek four years ago.

Michaela Breeze

Although Thursday night's outcome was different, the personality remains: big grins and a nod of the head to all sides when she holds the bar aloft and gets the buzzer of a clean lift; the, "let's be hearing you," gesture when she takes the lead; the bemused shrug when Obioma Okoli of Nigeria hoists more to steal the gold.

Then afterwards, the eyes moisten and redden when I congratulate her on a great career, and ask her to reflect on it.

''What can I say, 18 years, it's finished now, it's all over. I gave it everything I could here, this year I've worked my backside off, to make sure I came here in the best possible shape, and I've done that. The fact I couldn't nail it on the day, that's competition for you. I gave it everything I had.''

She did, managing to position the bar onto her windpipe during the clean-and-jerk part of the competition, and pass out under the effort.

A whiff on the smelling salts and she was back in the game. Breeze hauled up 110kg with her second lift, taking the lead, but the left leg buckled as she went for 114, and as the bar dropped to the floor, down came the curtain on her career.

Her performances were affected over the last two years by a back injury which never allowed her to regain the form of 2006 that brought Commonwealth gold, with a Games record of 220kg combined.

That's a lot of iron for a smallish lass.

There's not been a huge amount of recognition for her nationally, outside of sporting circles, and "those who know."

A bit like pistol shooter Mick Gault, she's an unsung hero (well, heroine) of British sport, and there are many others like her who take part not to be enriched or become famous, but because they can, and they want to.

Others are following in her footsteps. Teenager Zoe Smith's profile is soaring.

And there was another on Thursday night. Emily Godley cut a forlorn figure, though, after failing to register a lift in the snatch competition, and looked distraught as her coach led her away from competition area, with "DNF" - for "did not finish" - lit next to her name on the scoreboard.

A full hour later she was in the crowd, still wiping away tears. Competitors like her have the Commonwealth Games as their main ambition, the focus of their sporting lives. To me, that's why the Games matter.


  • Comment number 1.

    Congratulations Michaela on a worthy career. If only all Welsh sportspeople would carry on their international career for 18 years!

  • Comment number 2.

    With recession going on , Hospitals getting closed, people loosing their jobs,benefits slashed ..

    Do we need these game ?

  • Comment number 3.

    Well done Michaela, a true sportsperson, doing it for the love of the game, little reward and little recognition. Both the Olympics and the Commonwealths do a really fine job in getting the general public interested in hitherto unsung sports, what a shame the finances are not there for TV to cover these sports outside of both games, equally such a shame that the media in general remains entirely obsessed by Premier League football to the extent there are little funds left to cover other sports.

    I guess Baked Beans, you made the post to see how many people you could wind up? I cant think of any other reason.

  • Comment number 4.

    >>> I guess Baked Beans, you made the post to see how many people you could wind up? I cant think of any other reason.

    No .I have high moral values

  • Comment number 5.

    BakedBeans - You are a very sad individual! And you say you have high moral value - I say you have none.
    A healthy country is supported by a healthy sporting culture which increases all the above.

    GROW UP!

  • Comment number 6.

    @Willo77 >> If only all Welsh sportspeople would carry on their international career for 18 years!

    Ryan Giggs... 20 years as a premiership player... I guess he can play even when he is 50... He is GOD!

  • Comment number 7.

    @ BakedBeans,

    Well considering the Commonwealth games aren't being held in the UK I don't see your point. I agree you must be a very joyless person, not every bit of money has to be spent on everyday things, you can use it to provide people with entertainment.

  • Comment number 8.

    Heinz 67 - good stuff. Keep it coming, makes me smile.

  • Comment number 9.

    Well done, Michaela!
    What isn't mentioned in this blog is the tremendous work that Michaela, and too few others within our education system, do to bring on British athletes. The emergence of Helen Jewell within British weightlifting is testament to the importance of having people of the ilk of Michaela working within education and therefore having direct access and influence over young, talented sportsmen and women.
    Thank you, Michaela, for keeping Ivybridge on the sporting map. In a country of ever dwindling sporting funding, England needs people like you to nurture talent.

  • Comment number 10.

    Unfortunately I missed watching the women's 63 kg class, but have managed to watch most of the other weightlifting at the Commonwealth Games and must say that both the coverage and commentary have been very good, in fact the best yet. However it took a while for me to track down the screening times of this, the only sport I really want to watch.


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