Birmingham 2022: Stars make Commonwealth Games debut as Ellie Cole bids farewell

Six-day integrated swimming programme includes 12 Para sport medal events with 75 athletes from 11 countries competing at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre 27 Jul 2022
A woman with the Australian flag on her shoulders and a swimming pool in the background
Australia's Ellie Cole has 17 Paralympic medals to her name including six golds from Beijing 2008 to Tokyo 2020
ⒸChris Hyde/Getty Images
By World Para Swimming

Birmingham, Great Britain will see 75 Para swimmers from 11 countries competing at this year’s Commonwealth Games which is set to kick off on Thursday (28 July). 

The six-day swimming programme includes 12 Para swimming events, more than in any other previous edition of the Games, starting on Friday (29) until 3 August at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre. 

Birmingham 2022 will also mark the farewell of Australia’s most decorated female Paralympian, Ellie Cole, who will be competing in her third Commonwealth Games*.  

Cole and Pascoe go head to head for last time

Cole will be in action on Friday in the women’s 100m freestyle S9, one of the two Para swimming races scheduled on day one.  

She will be facing the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic champion in the event, New Zealand’s 11-time Paralympic gold medallist Sophie Pascoe. Cole’s teammate Emily Beecroft took the silver medal in the race at the Madeira 2022 World Championships in June. 

“The one thing that is missing that is the Commonwealth Games gold medal,” said Cole, who has a silver and three bronze from Delhi 2010 and Gold Coast 2018. “Obviously I’m going there to try and win. I’m not going to be disappointed in myself as an athlete if I don’t – I’ve achieved a lot in my 17 years on the Australian swim team.”

The race will also see the Commonwealth Games debut of Uganda’s Husnah Kukundakwe, the youngest athlete at last year’s Paralympics in Japan at only 14. 

The other event on day one will be the men’s 100m backstroke S9. Tokyo 2020 bronze medallist Timothy Hodge is competing in his second Games. The Autralian will be trying to change his silver from Gold Coast 2018 into gold this year.  

Saturday 30 will see other two Para swimming races, with the men’s and women’s 50m freestyle S13. 

Teammates in the British team at the recent World Championships in Madeira, Stephen Clegg and Hannah Russell will be defending different colours in Birmingham.  

Clegg who picked two golds and a silver at this year’s Worlds will be competing for Scotland while Russell will be swimming for England. She returned from Madeira with one gold and two silver medals. 

Alice Tai will be one of the crowd’s favourite in the water on day three (Sunday, 31) as she takes on the women’s 100m backstroke S8 having just competed at Madeira 2022, her first major event since she had her right leg amputated in January.  

New Zealand’s Tupou Neiufi, the Tokyo 2020 gold medallist, will be the name to beat in the race in Birmingham. 

The men's 100m breaststroke SB8 is the other final in the Sunday programme.  


Summers-Newton's debut

Monday, 1 August will mark the the debut of another English star and mult-champion as Maisie Summers-Newton will be looking to add more glory to her CV in the women’s 100m breaststroke SB6.  

She followed her two golds at Tokyo 2020 by three triumphs at Madeira 2022, including victories in the 100m breaststroke.  

Respectively fourth, fifth and seventh place in the men’s 50m freestyle S7 final at last month’s World Championships, Australia’s Matthew Levy, South Africa’s Christian Sadie and India’s Suyash Jadhav will be in the water fighting for medals again in the same event. 

The following day (Tuesday, 2) will see the men competing in the 100m butterfly S10 and the women in the 200m individual medley SM10. 

Canadian Paralympic star Aurelie Rivard is coming to her third Commonwealth Games and still in search of the elusive gold medal. She took bronze at Glasgow 2014 and silver at Gold Coast 2018.  

Australia’s Jasmine Greenwood was the bronze medallists in the same race at the World Championships in Madeira. 

Australian swimmers are also the favourites in the men’s 100m butterfly with Col Pearse leading the way as the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic bronze medallist and the 2022 World Championships silver. He will be joined by Alex Saffy, bronze in Madeira. 


Teammates and rivals

The closing day of swimming action at Birmingham 2022 will see World Championships teammates racing against each other at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre. 

Six-time Paralympic gold medallist Bethany Firth and seven-time Paralympic medallist Jessica-Jane Applegate are used to jumping in the pool for the women’s 200m freestyle S14 final in international events.  

This time, on their Commonwealth Games debut, Firth will be keen to put Northern Ireland on the top of the podium as Applegate will be defending hosts England.  

Firth was the winner at Madeira 2022 in June followed by Applegate in second and another swimmer who will be defending England at Birmingham 2022, Louise Fiddes, in third.  

Tokyo 2020 winner Reece Dunn will be defending England in the men’s 200m freestyle S14 final. He finished sixth at Madeira 2022 in a final with other six swimmers set to compete in Birmingham. 

The group includes Canada’s Nicholas Bennett and Australia’s Benjamin Hance, respectively silver and bronze at the Worlds.  


And a bit of history 

Birmingham 2022 marks the 20th anniversary of the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, Great Britain, the first edition with Para sports fully integrated into the competition programme – including Para swimming.  

That edition saw the debut of one of the biggest Para swimmers of all times, South Africa’s Natalie du Toit – the first amputee swimmer to compete in the same edition of the Olympic and Paralympic Games at Beijing 2008.  

Du Toit picked five golds at four consecutive editions of the Commonwealth Games and paved the way to other stars to join the competition.   

More information about the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and complete schedule and results can be found here.

* Correction 28 July 2022: This article has been amended to remove an incorrect information that Ellie Cole was Australia's flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.