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Five Kiwi medal hopes at the 2022 Commonwealth Games you probably haven’t heard of

OPINION: Four years ago on Australia’s Gold Coast, New Zealand’s Commonwealth Games team came away with a haul of 46 medals – five gold, 16 silver and 15 bronze – one more than they managed in Glasgow in 2014.

The 233-strong Kiwi contingent in Birmingham will be aiming to go even better when the Games finally get under way in England’s second city on July 28.

From 16-year-old diver Maggie Squire to 75-year-old lawn bowler Sue Curranchef de mission Nigel Avery is confident he has put together a team that will not only represent the fern with pride, but is capable of “creating further history” in terms of success.

Alongside big hitters the Black Ferns sevens, Silver Ferns, shot putter Tom Walsh and squash duo Paul Coll and Joelle King, there are a number of lesser-known, up-and-coming athletes who are well-placed to snare a spot on the podium.

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Here are five Kiwi medal hopes you’ve probably never heard of ready to announce themselves to New Zealand – and the world.

Hamish Kerr (high jump)

Hamish Kerr on his way to capturing bronze in Belgrade at the world indoor championships in March.

Darko Vojinovic / AP

Hamish Kerr on his way to capturing bronze in Belgrade at the world indoor championships in March.

Two years after claiming the national record, Kerr leapt into the record books at the world indoor championships in Belgrade by clearing 2.31m to take bronze in the Serbian capital.

It was his country’s first global medal in the discipline and marked the 25-year-old out as one of the rising stars in the New Zealand athletics scene.

However, Kerr was unable to repeat the trick at the recent world championships in Eugene, Oregon, where he finished in 14th with a best of 2.25m – missing out on the 13-man final.

But don’t bet against the Tokyo Olympian and his coach Terry Lomax getting it right when he makes his Commonwealth Games debut in Birmingham.

Bryony Botha (track cycling)

Bryony Botha currently holds the third fastest 3000m individual pursuit time in the history of the sport.

Cullen Browne / Cycling NZ

Bryony Botha currently holds the third fastest 3000m individual pursuit time in the history of the sport.

Auckland’s Botha looms as New Zealand’s best medal prospect in the women’s individual pursuit since Alison Shanks won gold in Delhi in 2010.

A silver medalist in the team pursuit in 2018, Botha has developed into a world-class individual pursuit rider, breaking Kiwi cycling legend Sarah Ulmer’s iconic national record not once but four times this year.

The 24-year-old lowered the mark from 3 min 24.537sec to 3min 19.634sec within the space of one month, making her the third-fastest female pursuiter in history.

Onyx Lye (boxing)

Light heavyweight Onyx Lye with his trainer Billy Meehan, who is also coach of the New Zealand team.

WARWICK SMITH / Stuff

Light heavyweight Onyx Lye with his trainer Billy Meehan, who is also coach of the New Zealand team.

Having captured the New Zealand amateur title in April, dairy farm worker Lye goes into the Games in good form and with high hopes of coming away with a medal.

The 20-year-old Manawatū fighter – who competes in the light heavyweight (under 80kg) division – trains under Billy Meehan in Palmerston North and is competing at his first Games.

He has designs on eventually turning professional and hopes a gold medal in Birmingham will put him on the path to stardom.

“I’m definitely not going over there to lose in the first tier. I want to go all the way and get a gold medal, ”a confident Lye recently told Stuff.

Lye has enjoyed success at the Auckland and Central North Island regional championships, as well as winning the West Australian, Queensland and New Zealand Golden Gloves titles.

The Commonwealth Games is undoubtedly a big step up in competition from that, but Lye is relishing the challenge.

Ally Wollaston (road cycling)

Sprinter Ally Wollaston has made a splash in her first season in Europe with several race and stage wins.

Justin Setterfield / Getty Images

Sprinter Ally Wollaston has made a splash in her first season in Europe with several race and stage wins.

New Zealand has named an exciting and versatile team full of Women’s WorldTour riders for the women’s road race, led by SD Worx rising star Niamh Fisher-Black.

But it’s the only rider not on a WorldTour team that could be the best medal prospect.

If the race comes down to a sprint finish as expected on a circuit that offers little for the climbers, then that could play into the hands of 21-year-old Wollaston, who rides for Dutch under-23 development team AG Insurance-NXTG.

The sprinter has made a splash in her first season in Europe, winning races and individual stages across France and Belgium.

Wollaston will also race on the track at the Commonwealth Games as part of the endurance team.

Qona Christie (judo)

Qona Christie won gold at the Sydney International in February and is a medal chance in Birmingham.

Kai Schwoerer / Getty Images

Qona Christie won gold at the Sydney International in February and is a medal chance in Birmingham.

Born in Sydney, the 23-year-old Christie earned her spot on the team after a string of impressive results in overseas competitions, including bronze at the Tunis International Open in March.

That came hot on the heels of a gold medal-winning effort at the Sydney International that makes the Wellington-raised Christie a legitimate medal chance in England.

Competing in the women’s under-57kg category, Christie is making her bow on the biggest stage as judo returns to the Commonwealth Games schedule having not featured in 2018.

Christie first took up the sport when she was seven after being encouraged by a friend’s blackbelt grandmother and is part of a seven-strong judo team that includes husband and wife Jason Koster and Moira de Villiers.

AT A GLANCE

What: 2022 Commonwealth Games

When: July 28 to August 8

Where: Birmingham, England

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