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Geelong-born badminton player Jacob Schueler was over the moon about a Commonwealth Games taking place on home soil in regional Victoria after it was announced last year.
On Tuesday, the 25-year-old said he was disappointed after Premier Daniel Andrews cancelled the event because of cost blow-outs.
Jacob Schueler and Nathan Tang, badminton players who likely would have competed at the 2026 Commonwealth Games.Credit: Eddie Jim
The move blindsided administrators, left many athletes devastated and has led to doubt about the future of the event itself.
“I was just shocked really,” Schueler said. “I was never expecting news like that.”
Schueler, who reached the doubles quarter-finals at the Birmingham Games in 2022 and was eyeing a medal in 2026, is among a crop of Victorian athletes who will miss out on competing in front of loved ones after the state government backflip.
“The Commonwealth Games was always my dream, and I think just to play in front of the friends and family who have supported me since I was 10 was probably a big part of that. And I think that’s what this was an opportunity for,” Schueler, who is currently focused on Olympic qualification, said.
“At this stage I’m not too sure what their plans are or … if it still goes ahead. I think that [cancelling the Games entirely] would probably be the greatest disappointment, if that happened.”
Schueler’s doubles partner, Nathan Tang, was also expecting to put on the green and gold jacket for the second time. He was named as a member of the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games Athlete Advisory Group only last month.
Tang said his mum was the only family member able to fly to England to see him at the last Commonwealth Games because the cost had been so great. He had been looking forward to having the rest of the family cheer him on closer to home.
“The Commonwealth Games for us Australians is super important. We’re super competitive in the Commonwealth and it’s a stepping stone to the Olympics,” he said.
Nathan Tang at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.Credit: Getty Images
“It’s rare to have home games. It’s an advantage.”
The future of the 2026 Games is now uncertain after New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland ruled out hosting in Victoria’s place.
Andrews maintained on Wednesday that the Victorian government had looked at every possible option to continue hosting the event, however concluding that the cost was too great.
He said shifting the Games from regional Victoria to Melbourne would still cost more than what was budgeted for. He said the regional centres set to host the Games including Ballarat, Bendigo, Gippsland, Geelong and Shepparton, would not miss out on sporting infrastructure upgrades.
“Doing it in Melbourne was probably the cheapest option and it was still well over $4 billion,” Andrews said during an extended press briefing in Maryborough on Wednesday.
Liberals leader John Pesutto has called for the Victorian Auditor-General to conduct an urgent inquiry into the costs incurred by taxpayers to cancel the Games.
Tang said having to fork out money to compete overseas will hurt young Australian athletes, who could be forced to weigh up whether the competition costs are worth pursuing their passion.
Nathan Tang (right) and Jacob Schueler train in Melbourne on Wednesday.Credit: Eddie Jim
He said Australia had not had a mens single badminton champion in the Olympics since 2008. The 33-year-old said that particularly for younger competitors, the Commonwealth Games were their Olympics.
“You can imagine how disheartening it is for some of these kids,” he said.
“I definitely feel like it will deter a lot of people.”
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