‘I can cry, but no hugs allowed’: The Comm Games family affair

Canberra hurdler Lauren Wells and her parents Kerry and Neil Boden. Lauren is set to compete at the Commonwealth Games next year. Kerry and Neil will also be there, but not just as spectators. They will be track and field officials, giving them a front-row seat. Photo by Karleen Minney.Kerry Boden is prepared for the Commonwealth Games tears, but Lauren Wells better find someone other than her mum if she wants a hug after what could be her international swansong.
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It’s not that Kerry doesn’t want to hug her daughter. It’s just that Commonwealth Games officials have to treat every competitor equally.

So when Kerry and husband Neil arrive at the Gold Coast Games to watch 10-time 400 metre hurdles champion Wells compete, there will be a twist.

Veteran Athletics ACT officials Kerry and Neil are part of a 14-strong Canberra contingent that will be a part of the 170 umpires and officials at the Commonwealth Games in April.

Neil has already organised to stand down from his role on the field when Wells races, but Kerry could come face to face with her daughter just minutes before she races.

It will be a touching moment for a family that has spent almost 30 years at athletics events and travelling the world to watch Wells compete at Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games and world championships.

But for Kerry, it’s strictly business.

“We have to separate it. I worked at post-event last year in Sydney at the national championships when Lauren won her 10th title. But I couldn’t physically give her a hug because you’re not allowed,” Kerry said.

“That was hard. I had a few tears of happiness. But I just couldn’t do it.”

Imagine being trackside to watch your daughter compete in front of the world, but having to contain your emotions.

On the flipside, imagine if you’re Wells and your mum is the official leading you on to the track for a Commonwealth Games final but you have to call her by her first name instead of ‘mum’.

“It might be a bit weird. It’s nothing new because they’ve been doing these sorts of job since I started athletics,” Wells said.

“But mum could be leading me on to the track for one of the biggest races of my life. She will always try to give me a hug before each race, whether it’s an inter-club meet or an Olympic Games.

“So I know it will be hard for her … but seeing her there might just be the thing that I need to make it more normal. It might be a lucky charm.

“It’s really special to know they’ve worked so hard for something and so have I, but we get to share it.”

Wells is still weighing up her long-term future in athletics after her Commonwealth Games campaign, but is pushing it aside to focus on chasing a medal.

If it is her last major international meet, it’s fitting Kerry and Neil will be at the track doing what they’ve done since Wells started competing 25 years ago.

Kerry and Neil sat exams and went through a rigorous application process to be selected for the final Games officials panel.

They’ve had similar roles at meets all around , including national championships. But when it comes to international events, they usually travel as spectators and proud parents.

But they’ve also been able to travel to Marrakesh, Belgrade, Dehli, Beijing and Glasgow to watch Wells compete.

“As a parent we’ve had a pretty exciting time following Lauren around to watch her compete. We’ve been to places we never thought we would go – Marrakesh, Belgrade, Dehli, Beijing and Glasgow,” Neil said.

“It’s been very exciting and challenging as parents, because you see the amount of time and effort she puts into getting prepared.”

Kerry added: “I’ve been hinting for them to let me lead Lauren’s race on, hopefully I can watch it because I hate it when I can’t.”