Meet the Gold Coast athletes making their Commonwealth Games debut

Jess Bowen | July 18, 2022

The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games are just around the corner, and two local Gold Coasters are getting ready to take the international sporting stage for the first time.

Boxer Billy McAllister and swimmer Ben Armbruster are two of the 85 Australian athletes selected to compete in this year’s Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

This is a significant milestone in both of their careers, as it is their first time representing Australia in their respective sports.

We caught up with Billy and Ben to chat about their upcoming Games debuts.

A crew of talented Gold Coast athletes are deep in preparation for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, some representing Australia for the very first time.

Billy McAllister | Boxing

When Billy qualified for a place on the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games Boxing team, Commonwealth Games gold medallist Jarrod Fletcher lent him his gold medal to inspire the Gold Coast-born fighter to achieve his best in Birmingham.

Billy will compete in the light-heavyweight (80kg) division where he is determined to put in a good fight for Australia.

How does it feel to be going to your first Commonwealth Games?

It feels surreal to be competing in my first Commonwealth Games. To see a dream I’ve had for years to come into fruition is so satisfying. To have the affirmation that all the work is paying off gives me great confidence.

What are you most looking forward to?

I’m most looking forward to the heightened sense of competition and pressure, doing what I do on a bigger stage with more eyes on me. Pressure is a privilege and I’m so excited to show the world what Billy McAllister can do.

 How did you first get involved in boxing?

I originally started boxing during the Aussie Rules off-season to improve my fitness. I had an aptitude for it, and it wasn’t long before it became my passion and I changed sports.

How long have you been training for this? How frequently do you train?

I’ve been training for eight years and I train 14 times a week.

What was it like growing up on the Gold Coast?

My favourite thing about growing up on the Gold Coast was the lifestyle that encourages being fit and active. In my younger years I was either surfing or going for runs up Burleigh Mountain. It’s a place that promotes a healthy and outdoor lifestyle which I’ve always loved.

I now live and train in Brisbane as I got posted to Enoggera as a Rifleman in the Royal Australian Infantry. Though I always jump at the chance to drive down to the Coast to spend time with my family.

Have you ever trained on the Gold Coast?

I have trained a lot on the Gold Coast, whether it’s sprints up the Currumbin Alley stairs or a 10-kilometer run along Palm Beach esplanade. There’s no more beautiful backdrop than the Gold Coast.

What has been your career highlight so far?

My career highlight so far was winning my first state novice title when I was 15. I remember I was so excited I couldn’t sleep that night, I kept reliving the moment over and over in my head.

When you’re not in the boxing ring, what can we find you doing?

When I’m not boxing I like to hang out at the beach, watch Netflix, and play video games with my little brother Dylan.

After the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, what’s next for Billy McAllister?

After the Commonwealth Games the Paris Olympics is my next goal. After that, I hope to transition into professional boxing.

Billy McAllister post match

Ben Armbruster training

Billy McAllister takes on an opponent

Ben Armbruster | Swimming

Ben is a swimmer for Bond University’s Bull Sharks Elite Swim Squad on the Gold Coast. Along with swimming, Ben is also studying a Bachelor of Sports Management with hopes to eventually become a PE teacher.

Ben made the decision to relocate to the Gold Coast at the end of 2021 to follow his coach Chris Mooney, who will help him to achieve his full potential.

He was elated when he made the Australian Dolphins team for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, though it came somewhat as a surprise. Normally a butterfly swimmer, Ben decided to compete in the 50m backstroke at trials as a fill-in swim. He ended up achieving a stellar time and qualified to compete in backstroke at the Games.

The last few weeks Ben has been very focused on finessing a stoke he doesn’t usually train for so that he can hopefully make a good splash in the competition.

How do you feel about competing in the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games – your first international swimming competition?

I’m really excited to compete and represent my country. This will be my first time ever venturing outside of Australia, so it will be fun to see some different counties on the tour as well.

How did you discover a passion for swimming?

It came from my first coach Gail Smail when I was about four years old. My parents had enrolled me in swimming lessons where we lived in Stanthorpe and Gail saw potential in me. She suggested that I try out a swim training squad. I ended up joining the local junior squad and loved it – the rest is history.

You were selected into the Queensland Academy of Sport (QAS) system in the last few months, how has that changed your competition preparation?

One of the best things I’ve been able to utilise through QAS is access to filming. I haven’t trained for backstroke for a long time – up until very recently! The filming has been invaluable to help me improve my stoke and dive as I can see what I’m doing and make alterations as necessary.

What QAS support services have you accessed?

I’ve been using the QAS physiotherapy services a lot, they’ve been really helpful with treating my bad shoulders during this intense training period.

How are you finding living on the Gold Coast?

It’s been really good! I miss some of my friends but the boys at Bond have been really welcoming and helped me with the transition. I also love going to the different beaches– that’s my favourite part of living here.

Do you think the Gold Coast is a good place to be an athlete?

Yeah, it is. We have so many great facilities around which really helps with training – particularly at Bond with the onsite gym and the pool. There are lots of exercise professionals on the Gold Coast who can help get you to where you want to go.

When you’re not in the pool, where can we find you?

To be honest, probably in bed. I can’t get through the day without a good nap! Otherwise, I enjoy hanging out with my mates, playing golf and basketball… and the PlayStation.

What’s next for you after the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games?

I’ll relax and recuperate for a bit – I want to make sure I take in this whole experience. After that I’ll be refocusing for the Paris 2024 Olympics – that’s my main goal.

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