The Auckland 1990 Commonwealth Games - We Are England
The Auckland 1990 Commonwealth Games
Seb Coe 1990

The Auckland 1990 Commonwealth Games

Star-studded England battled 'dire' finances and finished second in Auckland's second Games.

Forty years had passed since the Games had been hosted in Auckland and whilst England’s financial anxieties had remained, journey times at least had improved a great deal.

England’s General Team Manager Brian Allinson wrote in his official report that it was ‘a brave financial decision’ to send a full team to New Zealand, but it was not nearly as brave as 40 years earlier. In 1950 the team’s only option was a five or six week long journey by boat in rough seas but by comparison in 1990 it was a mere 31 hours on a plane.

Finances were ‘dire’ however, as Allinson put it, and a team of 341 was not cheap to assemble. ‘Financial wizardry’ was required and eventually, aided by donations from industry and appeals made by hotel magnate Rocco Forte, funds were raised to send the biggest ever England team packed with star names such as Kriss Akabusi, Sebastian Coe, Sally Gunnell, Fatima Whitbread and Mark Foster.

From star names to Hollywood names, there was even an appearance for a young diver by the name of Jason Statham, who would achieve fame in later life on the big screen rather than high boards (above - Jason's biography in the England team's handbook).

Four-time judo world champion Karen Briggs was elected to carry the England flag at the Opening Ceremony and it was in judo where the nation excelled more than any other sport. 1990 was the first time judo appeared on the programme and it came at just the right time as England’s men and women won six of the seven titles each for 12 gold medals. Briggs herself secured extra lightweight gold whilst Elvis Gordon and Sharon Lee both won the heavyweight and open categories.

India’s weightlifters were a force to be reckoned with but but there were still nine gold medals for England courtesy of Duncan Dawkins, Andrew Saxton and Mark Thomas who won three each. Keith Boxell and Peter May both took three silver medals apiece, being beaten by Dawkins and Saxton in their finals.

In shooting, Simon Belither and Andrew Tucker won gold in the full bore rifle pairs event, whilst the legendary Malcolm Cooper followed up his 1986 successes with two silver medals, one with Robert Smith (small bore rifle, three positions – pairs) who too won double silver.

Athletics saw England triumph once again, beating nearest rivals Australia by three gold medals. Linford Christie (above) secured the 100m title after his silver medal win four years earlier and his time of 9.93 was a hint of things to come. Three years later he would set the English 100m record and a year after that become only the third Briton to win the Olympic title. Together with the great Tony Jarrett (who won silver in the 110m hurdles), Clarence Callender, John Regis and Marcus Adam, he also won gold in the 4x100m relay. Not to be outdone by their male teammates, England's Angela Piggord, Jennifer Stoute, Linda Keough and Sally Gunnell also won the event's gold medal. Sebastian Coe (top of page) made his last ever competitive appearance but a chest infection meant he returned home without a medal.

The 4x100m relay successes were not the only English doubles. Sally Gunnell and Kriss Akabusi both won the 400m hurdles events, and Tessa Sanderson and Steve Backley won their javelin finals, the former completing a hat-trick of victories.

There was an-all English podium finish in the men's 200m with the aforementioned Adam and Regis winning gold and silver plus Ade Mafe taking bronze. Myrtle Augee claimed the only major title of her career with gold in the shot put and Diane Edwards was victorious in the 800m final. Peter Elliott and Eamonn Martin secured gold in the 1500m and 10,000m respectively.

It was almost a baron year for England in the pool with only Adrian Moorhouse winning gold, taking back the 100m breaststroke title he had won eight years earlier. It was a breakthrough year though for Mark Foster who finished with silver in the 4x100m freestyle and bronze in the 50m freestyle. Karen Pickering (above left, with Sharron Davies, June Croft, and Zara Long), later to become England's most decorated female athlete, won her first two Commonwealth Games medals with silver and bronze in the 4x100m medley and 4x100m freestyle events.

Like Edmonton 12 years earlier gymnastics was dominated by Canada, but in the sport's second appearance there was joy thanks to James May's gold, two silver and two bronze medals, Neil Thomas also winning gold and silver. As for cycling, it was a special year for Australia, but Chris Boardman was able to pick up two bronze medals in the team pursuit and team time trial.

1990 would be the last time England threatened the top order in the medals table as the Games headed to Victoria for 1994 and momentum stayed firmly with old rivals Australia.