Females lead Aust Birmingham Games team

Melissa WoodsAAP
Chef de mission Petria Thomas will lead Australia's largest overseas Commonwealth Games team.
Camera IconChef de mission Petria Thomas will lead Australia's largest overseas Commonwealth Games team. Credit: AAP

Set to field the biggest ever team at an away Commonwealth Games, Australia's contingent in Birmingham 2022 will have a distinctly female flavour led by chef de mission Petria Thomas.

The former swimming star, the first female appointed to the role, has assembled a star-studded leadership team including cycling champion Anna Meares, retired Australian netball captain Sharelle McMahon and Paralympic Games athletics medallist Katrina Webb.

Tim Mahon, the general manager of team Performance and Operations at Commonwealth Games Australia, is the sole male.

With the Games 300 days away, Australia is looking to send a 420-strong squad which is 55 short of the Gold Coast in 2018 but larger than previous away teams.

They will compete in all 21 sports, across 136 medal events for women, 134 for men and 13 mixed events.

It's the first time in Commonwealth Games history that more medals are on offer for women.

The women's and men's T20 cricket teams, as well as both rugby sevens sides have already qualified.

Thomas, a three-time Olympic gold medallist, said the composition of the executive team wasn't intentional but she was proud to lead such a cohort.

"It wasn't intentional to have all the all the females there but I'm actually very proud that it is that way," Thomas said on Friday.

"Females obviously bring a lot and me being the first female chef de mission of an Australian Commonwealth Games team, I'm very proud of that as well.

"In terms of the male-female team make-up we won't know that obviously until much closer to the Games but there is more female medal events this time around, which is wonderful.

"It's taken a long time to get to that position; females traditionally have had less medal events so it's wonderful to see that that's happening in Birmingham."

The Games will run from July 28 to August 8 and athletes will be spread across four villages - with three in Birmingham while the track cyclists will be in London.

Thomas, who has assisted former chef de mission Steve Moneghetti at the past three Games, said it did present some logistical challenges.

Due to COVID-19 she's only managed one site visit about two years ago.

"We will be a little bit scattered all over the place so that's why we're focusing so much on how we not only best service those villages and make sure that they're supportive and feeling the love, but also that they feel part of something bigger as well," Thomas said.

She said it was still be determined if the team could have more freedoms that the Tokyo Olympians, who travelled and competed under strict COVID protocols.

Fans can at least be present after they were banned in Tokyo stadiums with tickets already on sale.

"We still haven't received a lot of information from the Organising Committee around the protocols that will be in place during Birmingham," Thomas said.

"It's front and centre of our planning as it is with our members sports as well so we'll be working closely over the next 300 days to make sure we put every precaution in place to keep our team safe and healthy."

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