Gold medal sets Waikato cycling hopes and dreams in motion

GOLDEN TRIO: From left, Sam Webster, Ethan Mitchell and Eddie Dawkins celebrate wining gold in the final of the men’s team sprint in Glasgow.
GOLDEN TRIO: From left, Sam Webster, Ethan Mitchell and Eddie Dawkins celebrate wining gold in the final of the men’s team sprint in Glasgow.

This being my first experience of attending a Commonwealth Games or Olympic Games, I was unsure what to expect. Well-settled into Scotland after attending an international sports forum on community sport at Stirling University last weekend, and then hosted by Sport Scotland visiting schools and clubs early in the week, I could sense a nation building with immense pride towards the opening ceremony at Celtic Park. This is big for Scotland. A nation probably always struggling with its identity in sport when blended in with Great Britain at the Olympics or the British and Irish Lions in rugby, Scotland want to make a statement on the world stage and, from an outsider's view looking in, they are making an impressive job of it.

Of course this autonomous "independent" approach is more than the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Scotland is holding a referendum in September offering two options: retain the status quo and continue the traditional alignment to the British sovereignty or become an independent nation.

Six months ago, the mood of the nation would have been 80/20 in favour of the status quo option. Recently the gap has closed significantly. Add in Glasgow 2014 and win a few gold medals - like national swimming heroes Hannah Miley and Ross Murdoch did on day one - and this nation has been gripped by parochialism. I would sense a September referendum is good timing to target independence.

The opening ceremony was a wonderful visual display of the role that Scotland has played - innovative, creative, brave and a nation always with a smile on their faces. On day one I visited two events - the cycling and swimming. At the cycling I was cautiously optimistic my first ever visit might coincide with New Zealand collecting their first gold medal at Glasgow 2014. That was in the teams sprint where our world champions Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and the block-busting Eddie Dawkins had all the pressure in the world on their shoulders as they took on England in the final.

They sent a clear message in their heat by breaking the Commonwealth Games record and then repeated this to win gold for New Zealand. I drank in the moment.

First in utter admiration for Ethan, Sam and Eddie - the preparation required and responsibility to deliver as world champions must have been immense and they delivered on all counts. Remarkable New Zealanders.

Then the emotions kicked in - 18,000 kilometres from home in the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome and feeling immense pride in being a Kiwi. Then medal ceremony where our anthem is played. The smattering of black-shirted Kiwis in the arena are now a little "teary" but standing tall.

The velodrome is an amazing facility in which to watch sport.

We now have the Avantidrome for which the Waikato and New Zealand now must plan and secure a world championship in the next few years. Back to the pride building in Scotland, the second event I attended was the night session at the swimming at Tollcross International Swimming Centre.

This is where the pressure valve was relieved for the hosts as Miley won back-to-back 400m individual medley golds and then Murdoch caused a major boil-over by winning the 200m breaststroke gold ahead of fellow pin-up boy and hot favourite, Michael Jamieson. The emotion at the podium and among the Scottish fans when the Flower of Scotland was played and sung with pride was one of those moments that you lock away and store.

Matthew Cooper is chief executive of Sport Waikato.

Waikato Times