Glasgow 2014: Games chairman Cavanagh’s medal goal

FOR the past two or three Commonwealth Games, Scotland team officials have declared a precise medal target – and 
tended to surpass it. In Delhi four years ago, for example, 
despite what many saw as disappointing showings in both 
athletics and swimming, the target of 25 was exceeded by one.

Michael Cavanagh, right, takes the Queens Baton with 400m hurdles runner Eilidh Child in Coldstream

This time, with home advantage making it very difficult to predict with any accuracy how Scots competitors will fare, the team management has a more vague target, but at the same time a more precise one. The aim is for Scotland simply to win more medals than in any 
previous Games, which would mean surpassing the total of 33 won in Edinburgh in 1986 – a total that was inflated by the boycott of African nations. Anything more than 33 will be deemed a success, but there will be no limit on the team’s 
ambition.

“We’ve done an analysis across the sports and we’re really confident that we’ll get at least 34 medals,” Commonwealth Games Scotland chairman Michael Cavanagh said. “It’s always a bit difficult [to calculate]. One of the difficulties this time is we have such a big team, and that has created a lot of opportunities where people may or may not be close to the medal zone.

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“There are also some 
unknown factors. So it could be a few above 34, or it could be something extraordinary. If 
everybody we have earmarked as a potential medallist delivers, it will be extraordinary.

“If we exceed that medal 
target we’ve set of 34 and above, to me we’ve hit the target we said we would. If our athletes really do something extraordinary, I’ll be the happiest man alive.”

There is always a temptation for host nations in particular to target soft medals – those, 
usually in sports with low 
participation levels, that can be won with little investment. It is a temptation that Scotland has resisted: the team may be the biggest ever, but Cavanagh and his colleagues have kept very similar qualifying criteria to 
previous Games.

“Some people have said our criteria were way too lenient, and others have said we’re way too harsh, so that probably 
suggests we’ve got it right,” he said. “We established a set of principles way back, and one of them was to stick to roughly the same criteria as before.

“We go back and look at the two previous Games cycles. We don’t just blandly take what’s there: we actually do a bit of analysis on the sports. So in athletics, for example, some of them are tweaked up and some are tweaked down to take into account some factors we knew.

“And it’s hard across the 17 sports, because they’re not all objective. Some are quite subjective [ie decided by judges not times or goals etc]. So we’re trying to make it so that everybody in that team knows that they’ve had to work as hard as everybody else to be there. You’re never going to achieve that 100 per cent across the board.

“We haven’t gone for soft medals. Everybody who’s there deserves to be there.”

While hoping for the best, Cavanagh believes that the 
public should not simply turn up and expect to see medals. 
Especially in sports such as 
athletics, competition will be so fierce that a handful of medals will be considered an excellent return.

“Our track-and-field athletes have won two medals per Games for the last three Games. They know they’re expected to win more than that, so that’s enough pressure. If they win four or five, which is possible, that would be a great result for them.

“Some of the athletics events are tough. We struggle in the sprints these days because the Caribbeans are so strong, and we’ve got some good distance runners but look what we’re up against.

“Some other sports are also tough. For example, in cycling, Australia and England are very strong. We’ve got some young track cyclists who are out to try and make their mark, but they’re up against really tough competition.”

As someone who presides over all 17 sports in his official capacity, Cavanagh does not believe that one gold medal can be regarded as superior to any other. Having said that, he admitted that there were some events that he was particularly looking forward to in the hope of seeing a Scottish triumph.

“This sounds a bit corny but it’s absolutely true: every medal counts for me. One of the things I’m really proud of is the fact that within the Commonwealth Games you have the parasport events.

“We have some real medal prospects in the parasports events, and I love the fact that they count every bit as much as every other medal. So I’m looking forward to our para athletes delivering a few.

“I’ve got a few personal things. I saw (weightlifter) Peter Kirkbride win silver in Delhi, losing out on gold by a kilo: I desperately want Peter to win gold. It’s a big challenge for him – he’s in a tough weight category and he’s had some difficulties since the Olympics – but he seems to be in good form. That would give me a lot of pleasure to see that.

“My own sport of wrestling – we haven’t won a medal since 1994. We’ve only had two shots to do that, in 2002 and 2010, but it is time wrestling won a medal. We’ve got a couple of decent shots at medals.”