13/04/2024

Alana Quade celebrates winning gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. (Photo: Oceania Athletics Association / Design: Will Cuckson)

As a two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist, champion Australian pole-vaulter Alana Quade (née Boyd) knows all too well the sweet taste of success which a host of Aussies will be vying for in Birmingham come July 28.

As a two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist, champion Australian pole-vaulter Alana Quade (née Boyd) knows all too well the sweet taste of success which a host of Aussies will be vying for in Birmingham come July 28. 

For Quade, the Commonwealth Games have been an intrinsic part of not only her life, but also her family’s. The Boyd family name is one that has been synonymous with the Commonwealth Games for decades, with Alana’s parents Denise and Ray, as well as brother Matt, also competing at the Games. 

Denise Robertson (née Boyd), a 100m and 200m sprinter, won eight Commonwealth Games medals, including two gold, three silver and three bronze. Meanwhile, Ray Boyd attained a gold medal in the pole-vault at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, the sport that Alana would go on to forge a decorated career in. 

All up, the Boyd’s have secured eleven Commonwealth Games medals, and will be forever etched in Australian athletics folklore. 

In the eyes of a six-year-old Quade, representing Australia was the ultimate dream. 

“It was always a goal of mine to compete at the Olympic Games and the Commonwealth Games like my Mum and Dad did,” Quade told The Inner Sanctum

Both Denise and Ray Boyd have represented Australia at the Commonwealth Games. (Photos: Olympics.com.au and Commonwealth Games Australia)

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That aspiration to compete on the international stage would come to fruition in Delhi in 2010, with Quade earning selection for her first ever Commonwealth Games. 

Quade recalls feeling optimistic about her prospects of success in Delhi, having enjoyed a strong block of training in the lead-up to the Games. 

“I was quietly confident that I could be up there in the medals and potentially for the gold medal, but I guess if you’re looking at it on statistics, I probably wasn’t the favourite going in.” 

Embracing the underdog tag, a 26-year-old Quade cleared 4.40m to claim gold, pipping Marianna Zachariadi of Cyprus on a countback. It also signified the first time that two parents and their child had won gold in track and field at the Commonwealth Games. 

What followed was the realisation of a childhood dream, a tremendous reward for years of hard work and sacrifice.  

“To be announced as the Commonwealth Games gold medallist, stand on the dice, have the national anthem played in your honour and before that, doing a lap of honour with the Australian flag draped around you is something I guess I only dreamed of,” Quade recounts. 

“I saw people do it and thought that feeling would be awesome and then I was actually doing it. It’s a moment that I won’t forget.”

Quade celebrates her victory in Delhi. Photo: (Western Australian Institute of Sport)

Fast forward four-years later and Quade had the chance to defend her title in Glasgow in 2014, this time carrying the added weight of expectation of being favourite to take out gold. 

Despite the external pressure, Quade believes her maturity in the sport enabled her to remain level-headed leading into Glasgow.

“I guess I was four years older, four years wiser, four years more experienced in the sport. I’d been to the Olympics and World Championships in between those two Commonwealth Games so I had a lot more experience behind me.”

However, favouritism wasn’t necessarily the only change for the defending champion to deal with. In a stark contrast to Delhi, torrential rain beset Glasgow on the day of Quade’s event, making conditions far from comfortable for competitors. 

In the sport of pole-vault, gripping the pole can be a hard enough exercise in dry weather, let-alone when confronted with wet and slippery conditions. 

In some respects, the heavy rain of Glasgow offered a brutal reminder that even the best-laid plans can sometimes come unstuck. Yet in Quade’s case, foresight and a preparedness to adapt on the run shone through, allowing her to remain focused on the task ahead. 

“I took the approach that I’m going to do exactly what I can do that’ll give me the most chance to come out with the gold and for me that was to choose to jump off a shorter approach.”

“In those conditions, it was easier to run off a shorter approach with a smaller pole and I still thought that I was capable of jumping high enough to win the gold by doing that.”

“There were a lot of girls that no heighted in the competition because the conditions were so poor, but I was able to stay strong and single-minded and mentally tough in that instance.”

Quade’s resolve in the face of adversity saw her clear 4.50m, a height which proved enough for her to claim a second Commonwealth Games gold medal. 

Quade certainly didn’t have it all her own way, only managing to clear 4.15m on her third and final attempt to progress in the competition. However, the fact that she navigated her way through challenging circumstances made the success all the more satisfying.

“It made the competition probably more special than Delhi in the fact that it was really tough out there and I still got it done.”

Drawing on her own experiences, Quade believes that an important lesson for athletes competing at the upcoming Birmingham Games is focusing on the things that are within their control. 

“I’ve competed in Birmingham a number of times over the years, and it is very hit and miss with their conditions. It can be cold and windy, but it can be boiling hot as well.”

“Athletes going into the Commonwealth Games, regardless of where it’s being hosted, have to be ready for whatever it is that they’re thrown in terms of the conditions and in terms of how they’re going to feel when they walk out into that stadium or arena.”

“If it’s your first Commonwealth Games, you may not have ever experienced crowds as big as you’re going to on the day.”

One athlete who Quade will undoubtedly be keeping a close eye on in Birmingham is West Australian pole-vaulter Nina Kennedy. Kennedy is set to compete in her second Commonwealth Games, having won bronze in 2018 on the Gold Coast. 

Despite being on different time-lines in terms of their own professional pole-vault careers, Quade says that she remains a keen observer of the 25-year-old’s progression in the sport.

“I don’t have regular contact with her, but I definitely keep tabs on her competitions and how she’s going and send her a message every now and then.”

“I hope she does really well in Birmingham this year. It’d be fantastic to watch.”

Nina Kennedy (pictured right) is hoping to become the fifth Australian to claim gold in the women’s pole vault at the Commonwealth Games. (Photo: @AthsAust Twitter)

Remarkably, an Australian has won the women’s pole vault five times out of the last six Games, a terrific return for athletics in this country.

Quade forecasts that the women’s pole vault will be a hotly contested event in Birmingham, with Kennedy expected to face stiff competition from the likes of Holly Bradshaw (UK), defending champion Alysha Newman (Canada) and Eliza McCartney (NZ). 

“I think there will be probably four or five girls who will really have to battle it out for those medals, and I think you’ll have to jump probably 4.70m plus to medal if conditions are good.”

Reflecting on the personal significance of the Commonwealth Games, Quade feels honoured to have worn the green and gold for her country.

“I think the Commonwealth Games will always hold a very special part in my life and my family’s.”

“We’ll always be proud to have been representatives and gold medallists at that level.”

At the present, Quade is looking forward to watching the Birmingham Games with her two young children by her side. Perhaps even hinting at some extra screen time for the kids!

The 2022 Commonwealth Games held in Birmingham are set begin on July 28.

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