Less than 1000 days until the Commonwealth Games

The countdown is on to the 2026 Commonwealth Games, with events to be held in Gippsland. Photo: Contributed

WITH less than 1000 days to go until the Commonwealth Games hits Regional Victoria, Gippslanders Alicia Cook and Stuart Ottrey, both badminton players, couldn’t be more excited.

Locals won’t have to travel far to see Cook and Ottrey, with badminton events taking place in Traralgon, alongside Women’s Twenty20 Cricket in Moe, Rugby 7s in Morwell, and road cycling.

Nine-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist and Australian Chef de Mission, Petria Thomas OAM, said there was more enthusiasm than ever for Victoria 2026.

“If the Games were a relay, we’d be at the first change with three legs to go,” Ms Thomas said.

“There are 1000 days to go, and the countdown to the Opening Ceremony has begun.

“Our team will be ready, and we’re confident the host communities in Victoria and sports fans across Australia are looking forward to cheering us on.”

Alicia Cook, 16, is from Traralgon, and has been playing badminton since she was nine. She started playing after her dad signed her up for the local junior side, and she hasn’t looked back.

Cook plays singles and doubles, and has played against state champions in competitions. Her favourite player is Gronya Somerville, who represented Australia in badminton at the 2014, 2018 and 2022 Commonwealth Games. She also represented Australia at the Tokyo Olympics.

Cook said she was “really excited” that the Commonwealth Games were coming to Gippsland to bring joy to the community.

“It lets kids know there are sports other than the big main sports, and it brings badminton up a level and will get more players to come join,” she said.

“I’m excited to go watch the Commonwealth Games and hopefully try out. My dream is to actually try out for the Commonwealth Games.

“I’d like to see Gronya Somerville come to the Commonwealth Games and watch her play. I’d definitely book tickets for that because she is my idol and my hero. I would love to see her.”

Stuart Ottrey, 18, is also a badminton player from Traralgon.

He has been playing badminton for 12 years and is drawn to the community aspect of the sport.

He plays both singles and doubles too, but prefers singles because “it’s just you and the opponent”.

“If you make a mistake, it’s on you,” he said.

Ottrey said Victoria 2026 will be the first time he will be courtside to watch international players in action.

“One of my heroes is a Malaysian doubles player. He’s one of the top players in the world,” Ottrey said.

“I never thought he’d play badminton in my hometown. I’m really looking forward to watching him play.”

As well as playing badminton, Ottrey coaches local juniors to play the sport he loves.

“My dreams are that the Commonwealth Games in my hometown will inspire a new generation of kids to come and play badminton,” he said.

“There used to be 16 clubs in our area and I’m hoping with the Commonwealth Games in our area it will open that door again and we will get a lot more clubs reopening.”

The Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games will take place from March 17 to March 29, 2026.

After the opening ceremony at the MCG, there will be 12 days of elite sport coming to the five Games Cities of Gippsland, Bendigo, Ballarat, Geelong and Shepparton, supported by a festival program.