Commonwealth Games: Chad le Clos & Elaine Thompson among global ones-to-watch
|2018 Commonwealth Games|
|Venue: Gold Coast, Australia Dates: 4-15 April|
|Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, Red Button, Connected TVs, BBC Sport website and app; listen on Radio 5 live and follow text updates online.|
From triathlete Lauren Parker, paralysed less than 12 months ago, to swimmer Chad le Clos, aiming to become the most decorated male Commonwealths competitor of all time, there are compelling stories to follow among the global names competing on the Gold Coast.
There is also a double Olympic champion aiming to break the oldest track world record and a boxer whose two brothers - one of them a Commonwealth boxing medallist - died in a car accident before she was born.
We have taken a look at some of the big names who will be in action in Australia...
Sally Pearson (Australia)
There is usually a poster girl or boy at a major championships and on the Gold Coast that title belongs to Sally Pearson, the London 2012 Olympic 100m hurdles champion and two-time world and Commonwealth gold medallist.
Pearson, who spent most of her childhood in Queensland, overcame three injury-riddled years to take a shock World Championship gold in London last summer. She was tweeted by actor Russell Crowe on Wednesday, who, in the wake of Australia's cricket ball-tampering scandal, wrote: "Come on Sally Pearson, you can do it. We need you Sally. Heroes are hard to find around these parts these days."
No pressure, then.
Elaine Thompson (Jamaica)
Usain Bolt may have retired but Jamaica still has an Olympic champion sprinter on the world stage.
Elaine Thompson joined the list of athletics greats when she achieved the 100m and 200m sprint double at Rio 2016. However, in the 2017 World Championships the 25-year-old only managed fifth in the 100m final after a poor start.
Thompson says she is using the Commonwealth Games to prepare for the Diamond League this summer and will only run in the 200m and 4x100m relay on the Gold Coast.
Women's 200m final: 12 April; 4x100m final: 14 April
Caster Semenya (South Africa)
Could South Africa's most decorated athlete break the oldest track world record on the Gold Coast?
Caster Semenya is hot favourite to achieve the 800m and 1500m double in Australia, and has set herself a target in 2018 of bettering Jarmila Kratochvilova's 1983 800m mark of one minute 53.28 seconds.
The 27-year-old double Olympic champion and triple world champion is competing in her first Commonwealths having missed Delhi 2010 and Glasgow 2014 because of injuries.
Women's 1500m final: 10 April; 800m final: 13 April
Valerie Adams (New Zealand)
This could be the final Games for one its most successful athletes.
New Zealand's Valerie Adams arrives on the Gold Coast as the three-time Commonwealth shot put champion.
She also arrives having given birth to her daughter Kimoana only six months ago.
The 33-year-old double Olympic gold medallist and four-time world champion recently said: "It will definitely make the moment more special to win a medal with my daughter."
Women's shot put final: 13 April
Issac Makwala (Botswana)
One athlete who commanded almost as many headlines as Usain Bolt at the 2017 World Championships was Isaac Makwala.
The 31-year-old was strongly fancied to win a medal in London but was prevented from competing in the 400m final because he was suspected of having norovirus, and was initially deemed unfit for the 200m heats too. However, the Botswana sprinter recovered to qualify for the semis by competing in an individual time trial, before eventually finishing sixth in the final. It was a saga that will live long in the memory.
Makwala will compete only in the 400m, an event in which he was eliminated at the semi-final stage four years ago, and he said: "Scotland was too cold for me. I thought I could race to get a medal, but I don't perform well in that kind of weather. Australia should suit me better."
Men's 400m final: 10 April
Skye Nicolson (Australia)
There will be a huge cheer when 22-year-old Skye Nicolson takes to the canvas in her first 57kg fight, with the Gold Coast Games only 15 miles from her Yatala family home.
For Nicolson, who narrowly missed out on a place at the Rio 2016 Olympics, the home Commonwealths will have an extra significance.
Her promising boxer brother Jamie won bronze at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland. But both he and younger brother Gavin died in a car accident on their way to boxing training in 1994 - a year before she was born.
Women's 57kg final: 14 April
Rakesh Patra (India)
This Indian gymnast's story is worthy of the big-screen treatment.
The 26-year-old had to go to the Delhi High Court to argue his right to be in the country's Commonwealth Games team after he was originally omitted because of a rift between the sport's national federation and India's Olympic federation.
In a recent article Patra said his family home was burned down when he was aged five and that his parents went without food in order to fund his gymnastics career.
Patra has been competing in major championships since 2010 but has yet to win a medal. However, he finished fourth on the rings in February's World Cup in Melbourne - behind competitors from China and Japan, who will not be at the Gold Coast Games.
Men's rings final: 8 April
Liz Watson (Australia)
The 23-year-old Melbourne Vixens wing attack won the Young Star award in the inaugural season of Australia's Super Netball league after a phenomenal 288 goal assists.
Australia are favourites to retain their title and arguably have the best mid-courter in world netball.
Netball final: 15 April
Emma McKeon (Australia)
Four years ago in Glasgow, Wollongong-born Emma McKeon won four gold medals among Australia's haul of 19 in swimming - she is aiming for six this time.
The 2014 200m freestyle champion is due to take part in three individual events and three relays.
Women's 200m freestyle final: 5 April; 4x100m freestyle relay final: 5 April; 100m butterfly final: 6 April; 4x200m freestyle final: 7 April; 200m butterfly final: 9 April; 4x100m medley final: 10 April
Chad le Clos (South Africa)
Perhaps a swimmer who is better known to a wider audience is South Africa's Chad le Clos. The Durban-born swimmer inadvertently took centre stage at London 2012 when his father Bert's emotions poured out in front of a live BBC TV audience after his son beat Michael Phelps to win the 200m butterfly title.
The 25-year-old is targeting an incredible eight Commonwealth titles - at Glasgow 2014 he won a medal in all seven events he entered, including two golds (100m and 200m butterfly).
If he wins medals in each of his events then he could become the most successful male Commonwealth competitor of all time. The current record of 18 is held by shooters Mick Gault and Philip Adams from six Games - Le Clos has 12 from two.
Men's 200m freestyle final: 6 April; 50m butterfly final: 6 April; 100m butterfly final: 9 April; 200m butterfly final: 7 April; 4x100m freestyle final: 6 April; 100m freestyle final: 8 April; 4x200m freestyle final: 8 April; 4x100m medley final: 10 April
Sophie Pascoe (New Zealand)
Since making her Paralympic debut aged 15 in Beijing in 2008, Pascoe has become New Zealand's most successful Paralympian with nine gold medals, as well as 13 world titles and two Commonwealth golds from Glasgow four years ago.
Pascoe lost her lower left leg in an accident aged two when her father ran over her with a ride-on lawnmower at their home and she was left with severe scarring to her right leg. She started competitive swimming when she was seven and while she is favourite for her medley race, she will find the going tougher in the breaststroke event.
Women's SM10 200m individual medley: 7 April; SB9 100m breaststroke: 9 April
Melissa Tapper (Australia)
The woman known as Milly is used to creating firsts - in 2014 she became the first Australian Paralympic athlete to qualify for an able-bodied national team, winning Commonwealth Games bronze in the team event.
Two years later she became the first Australian to compete at both the Olympics and Paralympics and now she is the first Australian to compete at a Commonwealth Games in Para-sport and able-bodied events.
Born with Erbs palsy, a condition which affects her right shoulder and arm, restricting her serving action, Tapper will have a busy schedule over the 11 days of competition as she chases medals.
Women's team final: 8 April; women's doubles final: 13 April; women's singles final, women's TT 6-10 final: 14 April; mixed doubles: 15 April
Lauren Parker (Australia)
Twelve months ago, competing at the Commonwealth Games was not part of Parker's plans. But last April, while on a training cycle before Ironman Australia, she crashed into a guard rail at 45mph and was left paralysed from the waist down, as well as suffering broken ribs, a punctured lung, a broken scapula and a broken pelvis.
The 29-year-old refused to abandon her sporting dreams, and nine months after the accident she took part in her first Para-triathlon. Now she will hope to land a medal on home soil with the sport making its Commonwealth Games debut.
Women's PTWC final: 7 April
Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan (Canada)
It might come as a surprise to some that beach volleyball's current women's world number one pair do not come from Brazil, the USA or Australia - in fact, they are Canadians.
Melissa Humana-Paredes, 25, and Sarah Pavan, 31, unsurprisingly go into the inaugural Commonwealth beach volleyball tournament as favourites.
Women's beach volleyball final: 12 April
Laurel Hubbard (New Zealand)
The 39-year-old weightlifter Laurel Hubbard competed as Gavin before undergoing gender reassignment at the age of 35.
The Australian Weightlifting Federation wanted Hubbard banned but the International Weightlifting Federation said it did not discriminate against transgender athletes. Hubbard has passed strict criteria around testosterone levels.
Hubbard will compete in the +90kg category - she comes into the event in good form having won two silver medals in December's World Championships.
Women's 90kg+ final: 9 April
David Katoatau (Kiribati)
Who remembers the 33-year-old's celebratory dance at Glasgow 2014 and then Rio 2016?
The little man with the big smile is set to light up another weightlifting competition when he takes to the stage in the -85kg category, but there is a serious side to his antics.
The defending champion - who won Kiribati's first Commonwealth medal four years ago - dances in order to raise awareness of his country and its environmental plight.
Men's 85kg final: 7 April