Lewis hails ‘real opportunity’ for England’s athletes at Commonwealth Games

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Denise Lewis believes Team England’s rising athletics stars can continue to step out of the shadows at the Commonwealth Games.

The 2000 Olympic heptathlon champion wants the squad to take their chance in Australia in April.

Great Britain came sixth in the medal table and came fourth five times at the World Championships in the summer, with many athletes labelling it a transitional period.

Sir Mo Farah – who won GB’s only individual medals in London – was retiring from the track, Greg Rutherford was injured and Jessica Ennis-Hill quit in 2016.

But Lewis feels the athletics squad, including heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson who is competing in her first Commonwealth Games, can stamp their authority.

Lewis, who is president of Commonwealth Games England, said: “The World Championships were transitional, we got some really great medals but this is a real opportunity.

“We know Team England have been really successful in the last four years, topping the medal table last time round (in Glasgow).

“The ambition is big, we have a great team, and we’d like to replicate it but you know the friendly rivalry we have Down Under, it’s not going to be easy. They’re prepared and up for the challenge.

“For the athletes now the Commonwealth Games is a real opportunity to get some silverware. We’re in the game of getting medals.

“A lot of athletes will have gone into the winter with real gusto, there are three big championships this year and the Commonwealth Games is where they can really make their mark.”

Sprinter CJ Ujah, part of the 4x100m world championship-winning team last year, has opted to focus on the World Indoors in Birmingham at the start of March so will not travel to the Gold Coast. Scotland’s Laura Muir is also missing the Games to focus on her veterinary studies.

Lewis, who won Commonwealth gold in 1994 and 1998, refused to blame Ujah or other English athletes missing out.

“It’s been a busy year. Every athlete has to make a decision on how each competition fits into their grand matrix,” said Lewis, who was speaking at the launch of Team England’s partnership with npower.

“Somebody’s not competing is a plus for someone else who will get that place in the team and the experience they need.

“I would not criticise or judge another athlete. I always enjoyed competing in the Commonwealth Games but it is a long way and maybe CJ has other things to do.”

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