Emma Cox is competing in the Commonwealth Games shooting team.

THE Gold Coast will be a major focus for sports fans over the next 10 days as the 21st Commonwealth Games continue to unfold.

For the Bendigo region’s contingent of athletes, a Commonwealth Games on home soil looms as a career highlight and an opportunity to create memories to last a life time.

Basketballer Kelsey Griffin told the Weekly she remains grateful for so many things when it comes to her basketball career and for people who know her story, they know she realises that she has Australia and Bendigo to thank in large for helping her fall back in love with the game early on in her professional career.

“Now six years later the Opals has really re-ignited my fire and helped drive me to keep pursuing basketball at the highest level,” she said.

“What makes representing Australia so special is getting to compete with smart talented players at the highest level possible and enjoy the process along the way.”

Griffin said she was struck by how welcoming and supportive everyone had been to her in her short time as a national representative basketballer.

“But then again that’s why I wanted to become Australian, because that’s just what Aussies do,” she said.

“In sport nothing is guaranteed, but one thing I do know for certain is that as long as Australia will let me, I will continue to be honoured and humbled to put on the Green and Gold. I absolutely love it.”

Lawn bowler Aaron Wilson said he was looking forward to playing for his country on one of sport’s biggest stages.

“I’ve had some good influences with Brett Wilkie and Mark Casey who have helped me. Now it’s time to step up with an opportunity in singles and pairs and we’ll all support each other.

“It’s a thrill in itself to be selected, the goal is just to be a part of it. I’m lucky enough that Australia has given me an opportunity to play singles and hopefully I can go well.

“I’ll be taking it game by game, everyone is good enough to win on their day. I’ll be making sure I’m preparing well and fingers crossed I can get the right result… A medal would mean the world, would be something I would never forget, especially to do it on home soil”

Shooter James Daly first visited a rifle range at Kyneton in 2011, and has been competing at elite level since 2013.

“The first interstate competition was the National Championships in Brisbane, on the same range as the Commonwealth Games. I shot for the Victorian team and was awarded the Australian Prone Champion.

“I upgraded my rifle at the start of 2016, this helped improve my performance allowing me to become Australian Prone Champion again at the nationals in Victoria in 2016, become a dominant shooter in the Australian Team and represent Australia at the World Cup in Munich in 2017.”

The talented marksman competed with 150-odd shooters from around the world and qualified for the final in sixth place and finished in seventh.

“At the games, I will be trying my best to shoot a strong match and make it through to the finals and ultimately a podium finish. Australia has a fairly strong rifle team and should get a few shooters into the finals. We have all worked very hard and are privileged to represent our country at this awesome event, and if the scores do not go our way, we will still have the experience and honour this event brings.

“I will be shooting on April 10 and will be aiming to block out most of the spectacle going on in the lead up to my event. Afterwards, I will be looking to enjoy the environment that having so many athletes in one place provides.”

Clay target shooter Emma Cox said she couldn’t wait to walk into Wednesday night’s opening ceremony and hear the roar from all the Aussies that surrounded her and cheered her on.

“The crowd at Scotland was crazy fun so I think the Aussies will be pretty intense. It’s also going to be fantastic having my family and friends cheering me on from the grandstand.

“That’s not something I’m used to but definitely looking forward to having them there.

“I hope I can do the country proud and compete at my best on the day.”

Netballer Caitlin Thwaites, a key member of the Australian women’s netball team and a firm gold medal favourite, was unable to respond to an invitation to comment.

For more details on the Commonwealth Games, visit www.gc2018.com

– Joel Peterson