Sport: From Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce to Chad Le Clos: Here are the biggest international names to watch at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games

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Some of the world's biggest sporting names will compete at Birmingham 2022. (ABC Sport) © Provided by ABC Grandstand Some of the world's biggest sporting names will compete at Birmingham 2022. (ABC Sport)

There’ll be Olympic and world champions, world record holders, and global icons galore at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

With more than 5,000 athletes from 72 countries competing across 20 sports, here are our picks for unmissable moments from the international brigade.

Athletics – sprint sensations to steal the show

These races could be the highlights of the Games, with the top three women in the world on show.

Jamaican stars Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Shericka Jackson, Elaine Thompson-Herah will again go head to head in Birmingham after lighting up the track at the recent World Championships in Oregon.

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Fraser-Pryce is one of the greatest sprinters of all time, and at 35 years old, she’s still got it.

She just won her fifth world title over 100m, and silver in the 200.

Jackson initially specialised in the 400m, but since switching her focus to the shorter distances she’s shown she might become the best of them all after running the second fastest 200m in history to win the Worlds.

And Thompson-Herah is the reigning two-time Olympic gold medallist across both distances.

England's great hope and bronze medallist from the 200m at the World Championships, Dina Asher-Smith, will not compete due to a hamstring strain.

But Daryll Neita could still bring home a medal for the host nation. She upset Asher-Smith to win the 100-200 double at the British Nationals.

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The Americans swept the podium at the World Championships, but the Commonwealth nations  will still bring some blistering speed.

Jamaica's Oblique Seville and South Africa's Akani Simbine were fourth and fifth respectively at the World Championships.

Reigning African champion, Kenya's Ferdinand Omanyala will also be there.

Unfortunately, three members of Canada's World Championship gold-medal-winning men's 4x100m relay team will not be competing.

Andre De Grasse, Aaron Brown, and Jerome Blake have all withdrawn from the Games, with Athletics Canada saying the trio needs time to rest and recover.

One of the bolters in the field could be Welshman Jeremiah Azu, who ran a stunning wind-assisted 9.90 seconds to upset favourites Reece Prescod and Zharnel Hughes at this year’s British Championships.

And he's got the swagger that any good sprinter needs.

"It's just the beginning, I'm 21 and I'm looking to change sprinting in Britain forever," he said after the race.

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Para sports are a fully integrated part of the Commonwealth Games, and athletics will have the most events on offer for athletes with a disability.

And England's wheelchair racer Hannah Cockroft will be one of the headline acts.

She’s a seven-time Paralympic, and 11-time world champion, and will make her Commonwealth Games debut with her T34 category included for the first time.

She says it’s one of the last things left for her to achieve in her career.

“Getting that last elusive title that I’ve never had the opportunity of getting before," she said.

If she wins, it could shape as one of the Games highlights for the home crowd.

Swimming – Le Clos record looms, as McIntosh aims to dethrone Titmus

South Africa’s Chad Le Clos needs one more medal to become the most decorated Commonwealth Games athlete of all time.

Shooters Phillip Adams (Australia) and Michael Gault (England) jointly hold the record with 18 medals.

The 30-year-old Le Clos missed the recent World Championships with bronchitis but will be hoping to earn his place in history by adding to his 17 medals, including seven gold, in Birmingham.

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While plenty of Australians will be excited to watch Ariarne Titmus in action again in the pool, Canadian teenager Summer McIntosh could be a major threat.

The 15-year-old was second in the women’s 400m freestyle final at the World Championships, behind American legend Katie Ledecky, with Titmus not competing at the event.

McIntosh also won the women’s 200m butterfly and 400m individual medley.

11-time Paralympic champion, Sophie Pascoe, is New Zealand’s most decorated Paralympian and one of the all time greats of Para swimming.

This year the 29-year-old became the youngest person appointed to a Dame, and has four Commonwealth golds.

Cycling – Great Britain divided, mate against mate

Great Britain has an excellent track record in the velodrome at international level, but come Commonwealth Games, friends will become foes.

England's Dame Laura Kenny is one of the biggest names for the host nation at the Games.

She’s Great Britain’s most successful female Olympian, with five gold and one silver.

The 30-year-old is recovering from a difficult period, she had a miscarriage in November and ectopic pregnancy in January, but is aiming to compete in Birmingham.

Although in a quirk, track cycling will actually take place in London at the venue for the 2012 Olympics.

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Her fellow team pursuit silver medallists from Tokyo, Elinor Barker, will compete for Wales, and Neah Evans for Scotland.

England's Ryan Owens will face off against his silver medal winning team sprint teammate in Scotland's Jack Carlin.

Triathlon – Dame Duffy flying Bermuda’s flag

Dame Flora Duffy is a national treasure in Bermuda.

In 2018 she was the country’s first female Commonwealth gold medallist.

And in Tokyo last year she earned Bermuda’s first Olympic gold medal, and only the second medal ever in its history.

It meant the island nation, with a population of 63,000, became the smallest country to win gold at a Summer Games.

“Yes, this was my dream, but I also knew it was bigger than me,” she said after the race.

“It’s been a heck of a lot of pressure. I would never recommend being an Olympic favourite for five years. But it is all worth it now.”

Team sports making their mark

Australia will be amongst the favourites for most of the team sports, including women’s rugby sevens, men’s and women’s hockey, netball and cricket T20. But there are some other nations that are worth watching.

Netball’s strongest nations all come from the Commonwealth, making it the pinnacle event for the sport alongside the World Cup.

England stunned Australia by one goal to win gold on the Gold Coast, while New Zealand is a perennial favourite, and Jamaica will be looking to crack the big three’s dominance.

Fiji’s men are the two-time defending Olympic champions in Rugby Sevens, but they’ve finished as runners-up three times at the Commonwealth Games.

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New Zealand's men have won every gold except one, and the women completed a double on the Gold Coast.

The condensed format will be played at the Commonwealth Games for the first time, after debuting at last year’s Olympics.

Underdogs prepare for the big time

Of course it’s not all about who’ll win gold or smash records.

Known as the ‘Friendly Games’, there are special storylines that are even better than gold.

32 of the world’s 42 small states are Commonwealth members, meaning there are a whole lot of David vs Goliath stories waiting to unfold.

The third smallest country in the world, Nauru, is one of those that continually punches above its weight in a fitting sport.

It has a population of just 10,000, but has collected a handy haul of 29 medals in total – all in weightlifting.

It'll have another four lifters in Birmingham aiming to continue the country’s proud tradition.

Tuvalu is only marginally bigger than Nauru, with around 11-thousand people, and its athletes have one of the most unique settings for training.

According to Inside the Games, athletes have been training on the country’s airport runway as it’s the biggest open space on the mainland.

The capital, the atoll of Funafuti, is just 20 metres wide at its narrowest point, the widest point is around 400 metres.

Tuvalu will have six athletes competing across beach volleyball, boxing, and athletics.

It’s one of 14 countries that have never won a Commonwealth Games medal, so expect mayhem if any of the following manage to get on the podium.

  • Anguilla
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Belize
  • Brunei
  • Falkland Islands
  • Gibraltar
  • Maldives
  • Montserrat
  • Niue
  • Rwanda
  • Saint Helena
  • Sierra Leone
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • Tuvalu

And just making it to Birmingham is a major victory for Sri Lanka’s athletes.

Only a few weeks ago, it looked as though Sri Lanka wouldn’t be able to send a full team to the Games, due to lack of government funding with the country in the midst of an economic crisis.

But Sri Lanka’s cricket board has come to the rescue, providing 22 million Sri Lankan rupees (around $88,000 AUD) to send 114 athletes.

Australia's Commonwealth Games budget is around $7 million.

The Commonwealth Games begin with the opening ceremony on Friday July 29 from 4am AEST.

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