BIRMINGHAM, England – A week after the Lionesses became England’s pride by winning the European Women’s Soccer Championship, their field hockey compatriots are hoping for their own historic moment in Birmingham.
England have won a women’s ice hockey medal at the previous six Commonwealth Games, but gold has proved elusive. A thrilling win over New Zealand in Friday’s semifinals gives England another chance to end their losing streak.
They meet four-time champions Australia in Sunday’s final. The hosts lost the previous two games against Australia in the title fight.
England’s success is a bonus for Commonwealth officials who have placed great emphasis on highlighting women’s sport, with three major team finals on Sunday being a priority.
Branded as Super Sunday by organizers, the gold medals of the women’s cricket, field hockey and netball finals are decided on the penultimate day of the competition.
England defeated holders New Zealand 2-0 on penalties to reach the finals. Both teams remained goalless in regular play, but Hannah Martin scored England’s second goal from four tries on penalties.
In the other semi-final, Australia defeated India 3-0 on penalties after the teams finished 1-1 in regular play.
Rebecca Greiner scored in the 10th minute to put Australia ahead but against the current in the 49th minute, India equalized when Vandana Katariya deflected a close-range shot into the net – the first goal Australia had conceded in the tournament had collected.
The shooting began controversy when Australia’s Rosie Malone took the first shot and missed. But Malone got a second try because the eight-second countdown clock on the scoreboard wasn’t working.
Malone converted her second try and teammates Kaitlin Nobbs and Amy Lawton also scored to send Australia through to the final.
“When they announced the re-recording, I thanked the universe for a second chance,” Malone said. “I knew if I put it in, all of India would hate me. But all of our other girls did our shootouts, so it’s not like that one shootout was the be-all and end-all.”
England’s netballers play Australia in a semi-final on Saturday and the nation’s cricketers meet India for a place in the decider. Australia play New Zealand in the other women’s cricket semifinals, also on Saturday.
In other highlights, India enjoyed wrestling success on Friday as Deepak Punia, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik all won gold medals.
Malik, who won the women’s 62-kilogram (137-pound) class, said the support of Birmingham’s strong Indian community helped her succeed.
In the final she prevailed against the Canadian Ana Godinez Gonzalez.
“It was amazing to have such a mass presence,” she said. “There weren’t many Indians at the Tokyo Olympics…so it’s amazing for a wrestler to have that presence.
“And then, to get behind and come back at a point, the audience played a big part in getting me to where I wanted to be, which is at the top of the podium.”
George Miller became the oldest Commonwealth Games gold medalist when, aged 75, he served as director for visually impaired Scottish bowler Melanie Inness. His grandchildren watched from the stands as Miller helped the Para Mixed Bowl combination to a 16-9 win over Wales in the final.
“Bowling is fairly easy for older people, but any sport [be it] Walk, football, rugby, whatever, get out there [and] Exercise. Play games,” he said. “Competitions are brilliant no matter how old you are.”
The overall gold medal race intensified as leaders Australia added a string of other medals on Day 8 but failed to win a gold medal.
Australia has 50 golds and 140 medals overall, while England are now just three golds behind Australia (47 golds, 131 overall) with three days of competition remaining.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.