Crowds have supported Australian athletes and many of the international underdogs. (AAP: Dean Lewins)
Morgan Mitchell is bubbly at the best of times but even she could not contain her excitement about the reception she received competing in front of roaring Australian spectators at the Commonwealth Games.
“The crowd was sick,” an amazed Mitchell said after contesting the women’s 400 metres heats at Carrara.
“I think I got caught up in that. It was just awesome feeling that energy.”
Mitchell is hardly alone among Australian athletes who have been blown away by the level of support shown by spectators on the Gold Coast.
For many, this will be their only opportunity to compete in front of a home crowd at an international sporting event.
This is particularly the case for Australia’s track and field squad.
It may be decades before Australia hosts the Olympics again, although Brisbane is considering a bid for the 2032 Games, and the world championships will never be held on these shores because of the scheduling of the international track and field calendar and venue suitability.
Australia is certain to again be the host nation of the Commonwealth Games but considering it was 12 years between the Melbourne and Gold Coast editions, some athletes may miss the opportunity to compete on home soil due to the varying length of their careers.
“I loved it, oh my God,” gushed Mitchell about the crowd support.
“Australia is amazing. Seriously it’s an incredible feeling [compared] to any other champs, as it’s your home crowd.”
The Carrara stadium crowd was not even close to capacity in Monday’s morning session, yet they provided a deafening roar when it was confirmed Mitchell had qualified for the 400m semi-finals following a nervous wait after she placed fifth in her heat.
Mitchell’s teammate Anneliese Rubie also contested the 400m heats and when she knew she had guaranteed automatic qualification for the semi-finals she took the chance to soak up the atmosphere.
“Because I was feeling pretty comfortable in the race, I was like ‘OK, keep your ears open, be aware of what’s going on’,” Rubie, who won her heat, said.
“It was so much fun.”
Open events fuel big crowds
Crowd support has reached fever-pitch levels at events where there is free admission, such as Sunday’s 20-kilometre walks in Currumbin.
Late in his race Australia’s gold medallist Dane Bird-Smith was locked in a tight tussle with England’s Tom Bosworth and he credited those lining the course near the finish line for helping him clinch victory.
“I don’t know whether it’s an unfair advantage but definitely having that crowd down there was a huge, huge plus,” Bird-Smith said.
“Being able to push off that and take their energy and put it into my sprint finish. It was unbelievable and I can’t thank them enough for all the support.”
Gold Coast crowds show their support for Aussie rivals
It is not just the Australian athletes who have been cheered along at the Games, as Sunday’s night’s swimming program illustrated.
When Aidan Carrol touched the wall for Gibraltar in fifth and last position in the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay final, he stopped the clock more than two minutes behind gold medallists Australia and over a minute adrift of fourth-placed Canada.
Carrol and teammates were than met with a standing ovation from the Southport crowd, who were clearly appreciative of Gibraltar simply taking part.
The Australian athletes yet to contest their events on the Gold Coast are no doubt looking forward to tapping into the local support.
And those who will get to compete again, like Mitchell, cannot wait to experience it at least one more time.
“It’s pretty special, for sure,” she said.