The Team GB Commonwealth Games 2022 stars you need to know

All eyes will be on Birmingham as the Commonwealth Games get underway today, and these are just some of the UK sporting stars you need to know. 

The athletes compete under the separate nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for the Games, giving them a rare chance to fly their national flags in the sporting arena.

There are medal hopes in cycling, swimming and athletics, as well as wheelchair basketball, which is among the sports making its Commonwealth Games debut. 

Scottish 1500m runners Laura Muir and Jake Wightman both won medals at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon last week and will be hoping to recreate – or better – their successes on British soil. 

Meanwhile English swimmer Adam Peaty, now famous as a contestant on last year’s Strictly Come Dancing, has overcome injury in time for the Games and will be hoping to replicate the success he enjoyed in the pool at Tokyo 2020. 

Northern Ireland’s Rhys McClenaghan will be defending his nation’s only gold medal in the pommel horse, while superstar Wales cyclist Geraint Thomas will be competing in the road race fresh from a third place finish in The Tour de France. 

Among the notable absentees is Team England sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, who today announced she has pulled out of the Commonwealth Games. 

Here, FEMAIL reveals some of the athletes to look out for as the Games get underway… 

ADAM PEATY

England, Swimming 

Back in the pool: Team GB Olympian Adam Peaty broke his foot in May and his Commonwealth Games dreams looked in tatters. But he has recovered and is ready to compete in Birmingham

Back in the pool: Team GB Olympian Adam Peaty broke his foot in May and his Commonwealth Games dreams looked in tatters. But he has recovered and is ready to compete in Birmingham

No.1 fan! Adam Peaty will be cheered on by glamorous girlfriend Eirianedd Munro. Pictured, the couple at Wimbledon At the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards 2021

No.1 fan! Adam Peaty will be cheered on by glamorous girlfriend Eirianedd Munro. Pictured, the couple at Wimbledon (left) and at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards 2021

Dancing feet! Peaty is now known to viewers thanks to last year's Strictly Come Dancing. He will be hoping to have more luck in the pool in Birmingham

Dancing feet! Peaty is now known to viewers thanks to last year’s Strictly Come Dancing. He will be hoping to have more luck in the pool in Birmingham

Daddy duty! Peaty now juggles his training schedule with raising his 20-month-old son, George, pictured. He said he has no plans to retire from the sport

Daddy duty! Peaty now juggles his training schedule with raising his 20-month-old son, George, pictured. He said he has no plans to retire from the sport 

The Team England swimmer’s hopes of competing at his home Commonwealth Games looked in tatters in May when he broke his foot in the gym. 

But while the injury kept three-time Olympic gold medallist Peaty out of the pool for six weeks, he found another way to train on water — in a boat.

The idea came from Peaty’s coach Mel Marshall, who arranged for him to work out with British Canoeing and learn to paddle a kayak. 

It kept the triple Olympic champion in shape while he was wearing his protective boot but, more importantly, it helped alleviate boredom as he recovered from the first significant injury of his glittering career.

Peaty, who lives just 50 minutes away from host city Birmingham, could come away with four gold medals — in the 50metres and 100m breaststroke, as well as the 4x100m men’s and mixed medley relays.

Unlike when he last broke the world record in 2019, Peaty now has to juggle his pool pursuits with parenthood. 

The Strictly Come Dancing star shares a toddler son, George, with artist partner Eirianedd Munro.  

AMY CONROY 

England, Wheelchair Basketball 

Strike a pose: Wheelchair basketball player Amy Conroy is forging a career as a model Amy in a campaign for ASOS

Strike a pose: Wheelchair basketball player Amy Conroy (left) is forging a career as a model with adverts for brands like Adidas and ASOS (right) under her belt

Pioneer: One of the stars of the 3x3 wheelchair basketball format is three-time Paralympian Amy Conroy, 29, from Norwich, who lost her left leg through cancer as a teenager

Pioneer: One of the stars of the 3×3 wheelchair basketball format is three-time Paralympian Amy Conroy, 29, from Norwich, who lost her left leg through cancer as a teenager

Medal winner: Conroy, who studied social psychology at Loughborough University, was part of the team that made it to the semi-finals at the Rio 2016 Paralympics and took silver at the 2018 Wheelchair Basketball World Championship in Hamburg. Pictured, the semi final at Hamburg

Medal winner: Conroy, who studied social psychology at Loughborough University, was part of the team that made it to the semi-finals at the Rio 2016 Paralympics and took silver at the 2018 Wheelchair Basketball World Championship in Hamburg. Pictured, the semi final at Hamburg

Wheelchair Basketball will make its Commonwealth Games debut in Birmingham.

One of the stars of the 3×3 format is three-time Paralympian Amy Conroy, 29, from Norwich, who lost her left leg through cancer as a teenager. 

The sporty schoolgirl had already seen four members die from the disease, including her mother, Ann, by the time she was diagnosed at 13. 

‘I got a pain in my knee which ended up being cancer, fought through that, but I didn’t respond to the chemotherapy as well as I would’ve liked and had a leg amputated,’ she previously explained. 

‘It was my dad who had suggested I try wheelchair basketball. I was quite reluctant at first — the misconceptions I had were it’s going to be lame, I’ve been spending all this time learning to walk so I don’t want to associate with being back in a wheelchair.

‘But then I just fell in love with it quite quickly. I realised this is what I want to do and I want to get good at this.’ 

Conroy, who studied social psychology at Loughborough University, was part of the team that made it to the semi-finals at the Rio 2016 Paralympics and took silver at the 2018 Wheelchair Basketball World Championship in Hamburg. 

The athlete, who has modelled for ASOS and Adidas, also champions making sport more accessible for all. 

MATTHEW HUDSON-SMITH

England, Athletics 

Bright light: Sprinter Matthew Hudson-Smith, pictured, won a gold medal at the World Athletics Championships - and admitted it marked the light at the end of a dark tunnel

Bright light: Sprinter Matthew Hudson-Smith, pictured, won a gold medal at the World Athletics Championships – and admitted it marked the light at the end of a dark tunnel

Eyes on the prize: Matthew Hudson-Smith celebrates after winning the bronze medal in the 400m final. He will be hoping to bring home another gold medal at the Commonwealth Games

Eyes on the prize: Matthew Hudson-Smith celebrates after winning the bronze medal in the 400m final. He will be hoping to bring home another gold medal at the Commonwealth Games

Wolverhampton-born sprinter Matthew Hudson-Smith, 27, won a gold medal in the 400m final at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon last week – and admitted it marked the light at the end of a dark tunnel.

‘I had huge mental health issues in 2021,’ he said. ‘Not a lot of people know this, but I literally attempted suicide.’ 

Hudson-Smith did not want to reveal how or when, saying it was ‘in the past now’, but he did expand on the reasons his life took such a dangerous turn. He had racked up huge medical debts in the US due to a nightmare run of injuries and struggled with isolation during the pandemic while far from home.

‘In 2018 I won the Europeans, even though everything didn’t go to plan,’ he said. ‘In 2019 I tore my Achilles [tendon], tore my hamstring, messed up my hip. I had huge debts because I didn’t have American health insurance.

‘During Covid in 2020 I was stuck in America by myself. And in 2021 I had huge mental health issues.’

He also explained how the deaths of former coach Lloyd Cowan and UK Athletics (UKA) head coach Neil Black had hit him hard, along with the departure of Stephen Maguire from UKA.

Now Hudson-Smith is looking to the future and will be hoping to bring home a medal at the Commonwealth Games.  

KATARINA JOHNSON-THOMPSON

England, Athletics 

Athletics golden girl: British athletics poster girl Katarina Johnson-Thompson, pictured, will be out to defend her heptathlon title in Birmingham Katarina Johnson--Thompson poses in an Instagram snap

Athletics golden girl: British athletics poster girl Katarina Johnson-Thompson, pictured left and right, will be out to defend her heptathlon title in Birmingham

Talented: Fitness permitting, the athlete will be favourite to retain her title as she attempts to gear up for Paris 2024. She failed to place at the World Athletics Championships, pictured

Talented: Fitness permitting, the athlete will be favourite to retain her title as she attempts to gear up for Paris 2024. She failed to place at the World Athletics Championships, pictured 

British athletics poster girl Katarina Johnson-Thompson will be out to defend her heptathlon title in Birmingham. 

The 29-year-old, who burst into public consciousness at London 2012, has suffered frustrating setbacks in recent years. 

Celebrity pals: Katarina with actress and fellow Liverpudlian Jodie Comer in 2019

Celebrity pals: Katarina with actress and fellow Liverpudlian Jodie Comer in 2019

The pandemic delay of the 2020 Olympics robbed her of a Games in peak form and fitness. She recovered from an Achilles’ rupture in time for Tokyo only to be forced out of the competition with a calf injury.  

Though she finished in eighth at the recent World Athletic Championships in Oregon, losing her title to Nafissatou Thiam, the Liverpudlian is optimistic about her chances of recapturing her crown in Birmingham.

Fitness permitting, the talented athlete will be favourite to retain her title as she attempts to gear up for Paris 2024, and what realistically will be her final shot at an elusive Olympic medal.

‘With the world championships and the Commonwealths it is quite daunting but exciting at the same time,’ she said. ‘On paper it is a lot to do two heptathlons a few weeks apart. It is a lot on the body and a pretty big challenge to be honest.

‘But I have chosen to challenge myself this way — I am the defending champion and I am at that point in my career where I just want to attack every championships as if it is my last.

‘I want to have a good time when I compete because there have been too many upsets. I want to make sure there is joy in what I am doing and I want to make the people around me happy, too.’

RHYS McCLENAGHAN

Northern Ireland, Gymnastics

Defending champion: Rhys McClenaghan, 23, pictured, shot to prominence when he beat Olympic champion Max Whitlock to win gold in the pommel horse at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018

Defending champion: Rhys McClenaghan, 23, pictured, shot to prominence when he beat Olympic champion Max Whitlock to win gold in the pommel horse at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018

Anxious wait: Whitlock is absent this time, and McClenaghan also looked set to miss out having been banned because he had represented Ireland, but that has now been overturned. Pictured, the gymnast at training Rhys with his supportive girlfriend

 Anxious wait: Whitlock is absent this time, and McClenaghan also looked set to miss out having been banned because he had represented Ireland, but that has now been overturned. Pictured, the gymnast at training (left) and with his partner in an Instagram snap (right)

Rhys McClenaghan, 23, shot to prominence when he beat Olympic champion Max Whitlock to win gold in the pommel horse at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018. It was Northern Ireland’s sole gold at the Games.

The following year he won a world bronze medal in Stuttgart on the same apparatus.

Whitlock is absent this time, and McClenaghan also looked set to miss out having been banned because he had represented Ireland, but that has now been overturned.

He said on hearing the news last month: ‘The whole thing was so hard to wrap my head around, that I wasn’t going to be able to defend my title at the Commonwealth Games. 

‘To be told I wasn’t going to be able to do something I’d dreamed of since the age of eight was such a strange feeling, and I just had to go training every day and keep telling myself that things would change.

‘I was so relieved to hear the news today. I am so much better than I was four years ago both as an athlete and in the execution of my routine, and I am looking forward to achieving an even better result in Birmingham.’

LAURA MUIR

Scotland, Athletics

Overcoming obstacles: Laura Muir, pictured at the Scottish Athlete of the Year Awards 2018, had a setback with injury but worked through the frustration

Overcoming obstacles: Laura Muir, pictured at the Scottish Athlete of the Year Awards 2018, had a setback with injury but worked through the frustration

Onwards! Fresh from the World Championships in Oregon, pictured, Scotland's Laura Muir will be hoping to better her bronze medal result when she takes to the track in Birmingham

Onwards! Fresh from the World Championships in Oregon, pictured, Scotland’s Laura Muir will be hoping to better her bronze medal result when she takes to the track in Birmingham

Fresh from the World Championships in Oregon, Scotland’s Laura Muir will be hoping to better her bronze medal result when she takes to the track in Birmingham.

It marked a dramatic turnaround for the Olympic silver medallist, 29, from Inverness. 

The athlete was on crutches in February after a stress reaction to her femur in her right leg and admitted it was touch and go she would even make it to the World Championships.

‘It was the most significant injury I’ve ever had in my running career. For two months I couldn’t run,’ she said, after adding to her Olympic silver medal from last year.  

‘That was very, very frustrating, especially as I was going so well in January.

‘With the champs being almost a month earlier than normal as well it meant I had about three months less time to prepare than normal. So not ideal. I just knew I had to have a lot of confidence in myself and my team that we would be able to get back that. We did it and we got that medal.’

She is now aiming to complete her medal collection.

She said: ‘One more, I’ve got the Commonwealths to get. I started in my running career wanted to run all six champs, I’ve done that, then make the final of all six, I’ve done that. Now I want to win a medal at all six. It’s five down one to go.’

GERAINT THOMAS

Wales, Cycling

Veteran: Geraint Thomas and wife Sara during the red carpet arrivals for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2018. The cycling pro is returning to the Commonwealth Games this year

Veteran: Geraint Thomas and wife Sara during the red carpet arrivals for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2018. The cycling pro is returning to the Commonwealth Games this year

Back in action: Thomas, pictured with wife Sara, missed the last Commonwealth Games to focus on his team cycling but will be hoping to make the podium in Birmingham Thomas with wife Sara

Back in action: Thomas, pictured with wife Sara, missed the last Commonwealth Games to focus on his team cycling but will be hoping to make the podium in Birmingham  

Ready to race: The decorated cyclist, who shares a son Macsen (pictured) with his wife Sara, came third in the Tour de France last week

Ready to race: The decorated cyclist, who shares a son Macsen (pictured) with his wife Sara, came third in the Tour de France last week 

Welshman Geraint Thomas, 36, delighted cycling fans when he announced he would compete in the Commonwealth Games this year.

Thomas, who finished third in The Tour de France last week, last wore the Welsh jersey during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, securing the bronze medal in the individual time trial and gold in the road race. 

The decorated cyclist, who shares a son Macsen with his wife Sara, won the Tour de France in 2018, having achieved Olympic gold in 2008 and 2012 for the team pursuit. He also won BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2018.

Thomas missed the last Commonwealth Games to focus on his team cycling. 

Now he will have his sights firmly set on impressing on the Birmingham city centre circuit. 

Reflecting on his most recent Tour de France victory, Thomas said: ‘Back in November [my wife] Sa said to me that I’d finish on the podium at the Tour this year. 

‘At the time, I found it pretty hard to believe her. But hey, she’s usually right. 

‘This one’s for her and Macs, for always believing, and for everyone’s overwhelming support over the last month. There’s life in these legs yet. Vive Le Tour.’

BETHANY FIRTH

Northern Ireland, Para-Swimming

Newlyweds: Northern Ireland swimmer Bethany Firth, 26, married husband Andrew Fuller (pictured together) in May but delayed her honeymoon as she focuses on preparing for the Commonwealth Games Bethany Firth at her hen do

Newlyweds: Northern Ireland swimmer Bethany Firth, 26, married husband Andrew Fuller (pictured together) in May but delayed her honeymoon as she focuses on preparing for the Commonwealth Games. Right, Bethany Firth at her hen do

Accolades: Firth, who won five golds at the World Para-swimming Championships in Madeira, competes in a number of events but her main event is the S14 200m freestyle. Pictured, after being awarded her MBE by the Duke of Cambridge in April 2017

Accolades: Firth, who won five golds at the World Para-swimming Championships in Madeira, competes in a number of events but her main event is the S14 200m freestyle. Pictured, after being awarded her MBE by the Duke of Cambridge in April 2017

Team spirit: Paralympic athletes Bethany Firth, Jordan Birtles, Maisie Summers-Newton, Hannah Cockroft, Nathan Maguire and Charlotte Henshaw at the No Time To Die premiere

Team spirit: Paralympic athletes Bethany Firth, Jordan Birtles, Maisie Summers-Newton, Hannah Cockroft, Nathan Maguire and Charlotte Henshaw at the No Time To Die premiere

Medal hope: Firth won three golds at 2016 Rio de Janeiro in the S14 100m backstroke, S14 200m freestyle and the SM14 200m medley. Pictured, following her S14 100m backstroke win

Medal hope: Firth won three golds at 2016 Rio de Janeiro in the S14 100m backstroke, S14 200m freestyle and the SM14 200m medley. Pictured, following her S14 100m backstroke win

Northern Ireland swimmer Bethany Firth, 26, married husband Andrew Fuller in May but delayed her honeymoon as she focuses on preparing for the Commonwealth Games. 

Firth, who won five golds at the World Para-swimming Championships in Madeira, competes in a number of events but her main event is the S14 200m freestyle.

S14 swimmers have an intellectual impairment, which typically leads to the athletes having difficulties with regards to pattern recognition, sequencing, and memory, or having a slower reaction time, which impact on sport performance in general. 

Birmingham will be the first time S14 200m freestyle has featured in a Commonwealth Games. 

Firth had been swimming for just three years when she competed for Ireland in her first Paralympics at London 2012. She won gold in the S14 100m backstroke.

The swimmer later announced she would switch national team and compete for Team GB instead. 

She won three golds at  2016 Rio de Janeiro in the S14 100m backstroke, S14 200m freestyle and the SM14 200m medley.   

While she will be hoping for more gold medals, Firth said nothing will top getting married. 

She told BBC News: ‘I don’t think even winning gold could top off getting married. It was honestly amazing and it is nice to know you have that person – no matter if I’m winning gold or not – it is nice to know that you have still got that person.

‘I would do it [get married] all over again if I could – every day I would get married. I don’t get to honeymoon until after the Commonwealths. I will definitely, definitely be ready for a trip away but you have to wait for the good things.’

JAKE WHIGHTMAN 

Scotland, Athletics

Overnight sensation: Jake Wightman, 28, pictured, won the 1500m final at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon last week, becoming the first Brit to take home the title in almost 40 years

Overnight sensation: Jake Wightman, 28, pictured, won the 1500m final at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon last week, becoming the first Brit to take home the title in almost 40 years

Victory! A euphoric Jake Wightman crosses the line to claim gold in the 1500m final in Oregon

Victory! A euphoric Jake Wightman crosses the line to claim gold in the 1500m final in Oregon 

Family business: It became a family affair as his father and coach Geoff (left) was the stadium announcer commentating on his shock victory while his mum Susan (right) watched from the crowd

Family business: It became a family affair as his father and coach Geoff (left) was the stadium announcer commentating on his shock victory while his mum Susan (right) watched from the crowd

Party time! Jake, left, with brother Sam and sister Martha (far right) at their parents' belated 60th birthday celebrations last year

Party time! Jake, left, with brother Sam and sister Martha (far right) at their parents’ belated 60th birthday celebrations last year

Long-distance runner Jake Wightman, 28, became an overnight sensation last week when he won gold in the 1500m at the World Championships in Oregon.

The son of an Olympian and a Commonwealth Games marathoner, running is a family affair for the Wightman clan and Jake’s father Geoff was even commentating his son’s gold medal race. 

Jake, who runs 800m as well as 1500m, won bronze in the 1500m at both the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games in 2018. The following year he came fifth at the World Championships in Doha.

He suffered disappointment when he came 10th at Tokyo 2020. 

Now Wightman, who grew up in Nottingham but lived in Edinburgh from the age of 10, will be hoping to recreate his World Championships success in Birmingham. 

He said after his World Championships win: ‘I’m 28 now, I don’t know how many more opportunities I will get to do this and I hope there is a lot more to come. I need to make the most of it. It’s important to hit the milestone like this, seven, eight-year-old me would never have believed.’

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