THEY CAME, they saw and they most definitely conquered at a Commonwealth Games to remember.
Sporting stars from across Yorkshire are basking in the golden glow of yet another outstanding performance at a major competition.
The success of the region’s athletes at the London 2012 Olympics famously meant that if the White Rose county had been classed as a country then it would have finished 12th in the event’s medals table.
But that achievement has been surpassed by Yorkshire’s showing at Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games, with its tally of 13 gold, 18 silver and 15 bronze medals putting it sixth in the rankings.
The Broad Acres also finished fourth – ahead of Australia – in terms of golds won per million of the population. Medal-winning performances from the likes of boxer Nicola Adams, triathlete brothers Alistair and Jonny Brownlee and gymnast Nile Wilson meant that, even on its own, the city of Leeds fared better in Glasgow than sprint king Usain Bolt’s home country of Jamaica. Wilson, 18, was still taking part in schools competitions when fellow gymnasts such as Louis Smith and Max Whitlock picked up medals at London 2012. And, in a sign of the legacy that can be delivered by an event like the Olympics, he admits their exploits acted as an inspiration to his younger generation.
“What happened in London gave everybody confidence that they could go on and be successful,” Wilson told The Yorkshire Post. “It would be great if the Commonwealth Games persuade people to take up a sport or, if they are already involved, to work even harder.”
The arrival of Wilson and co in the spotlight was yesterday welcomed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which is now looking ahead to the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. A DCMS spokesman said: “Glasgow 2014 has built on the successful legacy of London 2012, with new British stars emerging in many sports. It bodes well for Team GB and Paralympics GB at Rio 2016.”
The Commonwealth heroes were also praised by Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire. He said: “Once again, Yorkshire’s sportsmen and women have done the county proud on the international stage with an incredible showing at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, continuing what has been an historic summer of sport for us all.
“But it doesn’t end there – we still have the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival in York which is a major date in the sporting calendar, plus the famous Scarborough Cricket Festival to round off a summer that will long live in the memory.”
Legendary cricket umpire Dickie Bird also hailed his native Yorkshire’s athletes, saying: “They have put in a tremendous performance. When you take what we did with the Tour de France into account as well, it’s been a superb sporting summer all round.”
Council bosses in Leeds are drawing up plans for a homecoming celebration for the city’s Games stars. Leeds City Council’s Coun Lucinda Yeadon said: “The contribution our Leeds athletes made to the incredible success of the Commonwealth Games was nothing short of extraordinary.”
Coun Harry Harpham, deputy leader of Sheffield City Council, said: “It’s been a fantastic Commonwealth Games.
“We are extremely proud of the athletes that trained in our city and used the wonderful facilities we have, such as Ponds Forge and the English Institute of Sport Sheffield. We are planning to mark their great achievement and will provide details about this in due course.”