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Monday, 5 August, 2002, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK

Weighing up the Games

By Alex Trickett
BBC Sport Online

We are told that the Commonwealth Games are more about the taking part than the winning.

That they provide - more than other sporting showcases - a chance for "friendly" nations from all corners of the world to share in each other's achievements.

And in many ways, Manchester 2002 lived up to that affable billing.

Everyone took pleasure from one-legged swimmer Natalie du Toit, who was voted the outstanding athlete of the Games.

The South African was not singled out for winning two disabled finals, but for finishing eighth in the able-bodied 800m, proof - if any was needed - that effort can outweigh gold.

Then there was the conduct of England and India's hockey teams after the women's final.

Here was an example of Commonwealth goodwill stretched to the extreme after a controversial golden goal gave India victory.

A long stand-off ensued as the host nation pursued an appeal, but when that was turned down, they offered genuine congratulations to the winners.

The spirit of the "Friendly Games" had prevailed - if only just.

But it would be wrong to imply that gracious competition is the only thing athletes crave.

Who can forget the agony of defeat in the eyes of English sprint aces Mark Lewis-Francis and Dwain Chambers after they pulled up short in the 100m final?

Both men were bidding for medals in front of their home crowd and were beyond disappointment when injuries deprived them.

And what of national pride?

There can be no disguising the fact that results matter above all when fierce rivals like Wales and Scotland, or Australia and New Zealand, lock horns.

Placed in that context, who were the winners and losers of these Games?


Winners:

They came to Manchester with everything to lose, but Australia make the long journey home confirmed as the Commonwealth's best.

The Aussies were run closer than expected in the pool, but Ian Thorpe lived up to his hype to help them top their medal haul from Kuala Lumpur.

Medal table - Manchester 2002
Nation, total, gold, silver, bronze
1 Australia 206
(82G, 62S, 62B)

2 England 165
(54G, 51S, 60B)

3 India 72
(32G, 21S, 19B)

4 Canada 114
(31G, 41S, 42B)

5 New Zealand 45
(11G, 13S, 21B)

6 South Africa 46
(9G, 20S, 17B)

England won 18 more gold medals than in 1998 and can reflect on some brilliant individual displays in events ranging from table tennis to judo.

Wales and Scotland also got in the act, drawing inspiration from their generous Lancashire support, to double their Malaysian medal tallies.

But the biggest improvement belongs to India, the most populous Commonwealth country, which took 32 golds - compared to seven in 1998.

A special mention goes to one of the smallest competing nations.

Thanks to their superb weightlifting team, the tiny Pacific island of Nauru scooped 15 medals, one for every 700 inhabitants.


Losers:

Among the nations to depart disappointed are perennial giants Canada.

Their medal haul of 114 belies the fact that they had to play third-fiddle to England and Australia in many events and - unthinkably - left the pool without a single swimming gold.

Medal table - Kuala Lumpur 1998
Nation, total, gold, silver, bronze
1 Australia 198
(80G, 60S, 58B)

2 England 136
(36G, 47S, 53B)

3 Canada 99
(30G, 31S, 38B)

4 Malaysia 36
(10G, 14S, 12B)

5 South Africa 34
(9G, 11S, 14B)

6 New Zealand 35
(8G, 7S, 20B)

Northern Ireland also had it tough.

Of the four home nations, they benefited least from local support, only matching their five-medal haul of four years ago.

Among the African nations, Ghana have most cause for consternation.

Their solitary bronze represented a poor return after five medals in Malaysia and left them far behind continental rivals like Nigeria (20 medals), Kenya (17) and Cameroon (12).


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