Aussies trim England’s Day 1 lead with 2 late world records
GOLD COAST, Australia (AP) — World records on the cycling track and in the pool gave host Australia a late boost on the opening day of competition at the Commonwealth Games after the setback of losing hometown hero Sally Pearson.
The Australian swimmers have a tradition of setting the tone for the rest of the team at the Commonwealth Games, but the English made a faster start before the home team rallied with a big statement in the last event of the night.
Sisters Bronte and Cate Campbell, Emma McKeon and Shayna Jack set a world record 3 minutes, 30.05 seconds in the 4x100-meter women’s freestyle relay, lowing the mark the Australians set at the 2016 Olympics.
“It was beyond my wildest dreams,” Cate Campbell said. “My coach said ‘The atmosphere out there is electric, go out, soak it up.’ I think that is what we’ve done.”
England finished Thursday with six gold and 12 medals overall, and Australia had five gold and 15 in total. Malaysia had two golds in weightlifting for third spot, and Canada was fourth in the standings with one gold and seven overall.
Olympic champion Mack Horton won Australia’s first gold of the meet in the 400-meter freestyle, while Canada’s Taylor Ruck (200-meter freestyle) and England’s Aimee Willmott (400 individual medley) and James Wilby (200 breaststroke) also claimed gold in the pool.
England lost the chance at another gold medal world champion swimmer Ben Proud was disqualified after winning his first heat in the 50-meter butterfly.
The Aussies picked up three gold medals further north in Brisbane at the Anna Meares Velodrome, winning the men’s 4,000 team pursuit in a world-record time and also capturing the women’s team pursuit and team sprint.
In the first-of categories: two-time world champion Flora Duffy won the women’s sprint triathlon to secure the first gold medal of the games for Bermuda, and Malaysian weightlifter Muhammad Izhar Ahmad won the first of the men’s titles on offer at the Gold Coast. The first team title went to the English men in gymnastics.
Some highlights on Day 1 of competition:
SO LONG SALLY: The morning after a prominent role in the opening ceremonies, world and former Olympic champion hurdler Pearson announced her withdrawal from the athletics competition because a long-standing Achilles injury had flared in training this week.
Pearson, who was promoted as the face of the games, knew the day before the opening ceremony that she wouldn’t be able to compete, but kept it pretty much secret.
“The timing was not great and she certainly didn’t want it to detract from the games or the opening ceremony or anyone else’s journey here,” coach Craig Hilliard said. “I think that’s important to realize. So today was the most convenient,” to make it public.
FIRST GOLD: Competing in the bright morning sun, Duffy cruised to victory by 43 seconds over Jessica Learmonth and had time to grab a Bermuda flag as she completed the sprint distance.
“Pretty cool that I won the first gold medal of these games,” she said.
The men’s race was far less predictable. South Africa’s Henri Schoeman broke away early in the run leg to finish in 52 minutes, 31 seconds and beat Jacob Birtwhistle of Australia by seven seconds. Marc Austin of Scotland took the bronze.
Two-time Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee and his brother Jonathan finished 1-2 in Glasgow four years ago but were well out of the medals this time. Alistair, who had surgery on his hip last August, placed 10th in an afternoon race hit by rain.
“It was pretty terrible today,” said Jonathan Brownlee, who was seventh. “From start to finish I didn’t feel great.”
WEIGHT LIFTED: Izhar Ahmad lifted a games record total of 261 kilograms in the 56-kilogram category a day after his birthday.
His 144 in the clean and jerk secured the record and an unbeatable lead, and he celebrated with a jig and a jog around the lifting area with the Malaysian flag.
Gururaja Poojary picked up silver for India, missing two attempts before a successful last lift that relegated Sri Lanka’s Chaturanga Lakmal into third spot.
India collected its first gold medal when Chanu Saikhom Mirabai won the women’s 48-kilogram competition in a games record.
RECORD CYCLES: Australia won both the men’s and women’s 4,000-meter team pursuits in record times.
Kelland O’Brien, Leigh Howard, Alex Porter and Sam Welsford beat England in a world record 3 minutes, 49.804 seconds, lowering the mark set by the British at the 2016 Olympics.
The Australian women’s pursuit team overtook New Zealand on the last lap to win in a games-record time, and also won the women’s team sprint.
The New Zealanders picked up their first gold medal on the track with a victory over England in the men’s team sprint.
11 YEARS YOUNG: Anna Hursey made her Commonwealth Games debut at the age of 11, and drew plenty of attention as the youngest athlete competing at the Gold Coast.
With Wales needing a win to stay alive in its opening round against India, Hursey partnered Charlotte Carey and produced some big forehands to help in 3-2 victory.
The game was part of the table tennis team event, a best-of-five series, which Wales lost 3-1 against one of the medal favorites.
PROUD OUT: World champion Proud was disqualified from the 50-meter butterfly after winning his morning swim in the preliminaries.
He touched first in first place but a referee ruled that he’d moved on the blocks before the start.
“I am in the shape of my life and am gutted to miss out on the opportunity to show what I can do,” said Proud, who lost an appeal against the disqualification. “I really wanted to come into the competition to retain both my titles and to have that opportunity taken away in the first heat is heartbreaking.”