The natural beauty and spectacular weather of Australia's Gold Coast – the host city for the 2018 Commonwealth Games next April – won over three leading British table tennis players during their recent visit to the world-famous holiday destination.
“Can't wait to be back on the Gold Coast for next year's Commonwealth Games!”
That was the eager anticipation from three British table tennis players who spent several weeks in the beachside 2018 Games host city while contesting the recent Australian Open championships.
The picturesque Gold Coast, one of Australia's most popular tourism destinations, will host the XXIst Commonwealth Games from April 4-15, 2018.
It will be the biggest sporting event in Australia this decade and the first time the Commonwealth Games have been held with backdrops more associated with holiday postcards.
The Gold Coast is known for its 52km of sweeping sandy beaches, its 860km of tidal waterways, its nearby lush green hinterland and its amazing weather – 300 days of sunshine, on average, each year.
It hosts more than one million international visitors annually.
Next year among them will be more than 6600 athletes and officials from 70 Commonwealth nations who will contest 18 sports and seven para sports over 11 days of competition
Team England star Paul Drinkhall says the Gold Coast weather will undoubtedly be the “wow factor” for visiting athletes and their families.
“We haven't seen a cloud since the day we arrived – it has been amazing. It is great to wake up every day to a bright blue sky,” says Paul, the world No. 48 and the United Kingdom's leading table tennis player.
It was the first visit to the Gold Coast for the 27-year-old from Middlesbrough who now lives in London.
He is tipped to be a strong medal contender in singles and doubles next April although competition from Malaysian, Singapore and Australian rivals is expected to be fierce.
During his Australian Open visit, Paul was taken aback by the friendliness of Gold Coast residents and the beauty of the seaside city.
“There are amazing views and it's just normal here,” he says.
“It's a great place and I'm looking forward to coming back next year.”
Scotsman Gavin Rumgay agrees and describes the Gold Coast as “super”.
If selected to compete at the Gold Coast next year, it will be Gavin's fourth Commonwealth Games after Manchester (2002), Delhi (2010) and Glasgow (2014).
“This (Gold Coast) is going to be even better than all those,” says the 32-year-old from Perth.
“I know my mum and dad will come out for this and will really enjoy it and really enjoy the weather.
“You want it to be a family thing as well. Scotland is a big family but bringing your actual family with you as well is going to make it even better.”
During his stay, Gavin began several mornings with a walk along the beach at the iconic Surfers Paradise where the dawn sun sparkles off the beachside high-rises.
He was stunned at how many others, locals and visitors, started their day the same way.
“Everyone is super friendly. There's a real outdoors culture, enjoying the weather. It's fabulous,” he says.
Gavin also noticed the hundreds of locals who surf each morning.
After next year's Games, he hopes to try his hand riding a board through the Gold Coast numerous learn-to-surf schools that pride themselves in getting many novices standing up on a surfboard after just one lesson.
“Surfing would be interesting to test the balance of a table tennis player,” Gavin says.
Welsh player Charlotte Carey made the most of her time on the Gold Coast during the Australian Open.
As well as early morning jogs around a lake, she visited Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary where she cuddled a koala and fed the wild rainbow lorikeets,.
Charlotte also had breakfast at Currumbin Vikings Surf Life Saving Club, where the waves break just metres from the tables, and drove past the new Kurrawa Surf Life Saving Club which will be renamed Wales House and will be the home for Team Wales next April.
“I really like the Gold Coast. I think everyone (coming for the Games) will love it,” says the 21-year-old from Ebbw Vale.
“I had big expectations for Australia and this really met those expectations.
“I love the wildlife and the beaches are just amazing.”
Charlotte's parents Nicola and Danny, and aunt and uncle Lisa and John Hardwick have already booked flight and tickets to the Gold Coast for next April's Games.
“It is a great holiday destination,” she says.
“It will be a good Games – everyone should bring their families and stay on as long as possible.
“I think there's going to be quite a few people here supporting Team Wales.”
Table tennis is extremely popular across the Commonwealth and more than 40 nations are expected to contest events in men's and women's singles and doubles and mixed doubles.
The competition will be held in the soundstage at Movie World - the largest in the southern hemisphere.
Movie World is at Oxenford, about 25 minutes inland from Surfers Paradise, which is also home to several other Gold Coast theme parks including Dreamworld, Wet'n'Wild and the Australian Outback Spectacular.
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Name: Geoff Stead
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