BIRMINGHAM, UK: Australia dominated the first night of pool action at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham on Friday to top the medal table.
Olympic champions Ariarne Titmus and Zac Stubblety-Cook showed their class in close races while world champion Elijah Winnington returned home in style.
Australia ended their night on a high by winning the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay, with Emma McKeon claiming the ninth Commonwealth gold medal of her career.
They won eight medals from a possible 16 on the first day of sporting action at the Games – five ahead of second-placed New Zealand.
Titmus, who won gold medals in the 200m and 400m freestyle at the Tokyo Olympics last year, was given a big scare in the women’s 200m freestyle at the Sandwell Aquatics Center by compatriot Mollie O’Callaghan, 18 years old.
The two-time Olympic champion remained in control for most of the race but was trailed down the home stretch, heading home by just 0.12s in a new Games record of 1min 53.89s.
“Moll killed in training, she’s young, feisty, hungry – I knew she’d be there,” Titmus told Australia’s Channel 7. “It’s fun to have a run.”
“I love that we are in a country where we have depth like this,” added the 21-year-old, who recently had a coronavirus crisis.
Winnington took victory in the men’s 400m freestyle as Australia swept the podium just weeks after winning the world title in Budapest.
The 22-year-old, who was inside world record pace for much of the race, fatigued in the final stages, clocking 3:43.06.
Winnington, who nearly quit the sport after a lackluster Olympics last year, said he wasn’t too disappointed to lose his lead in the closing stages to miss out on a chance to break the world record.
“It’s something to chase,” he said. “My trainer and I always say it’s pretty hard to be chased, but having that world record there means I’m still the chaser.”
Olympic and world champion in the men’s 200 breaststroke Stubblety-Cook came under immense pressure from defending English champion James Wilby, but he finished the home stretch to win in 2:08.07.
Canadian Summer McIntosh, barely 15 years old, destroyed the field of the women’s 400 m individual medley.
She clocked a new Games record of 4:29.01 – more than three seconds faster than her winning time at the recent world championships.
Breaking her own junior world record, she finished nearly eight seconds clear of second-placed Australian Kiah Melverton.
“I worked on a lot of things in training to be able to perform my 400m individual medley better than at the world championships because I had so much room for improvement – and I still do,” she said. declared.
In the cycling events, held in London, Australia won the women’s 4,000m team pursuit and New Zealand won the men’s event.
Much of the attention was on England’s Laura Kenny, who won an emotional bronze medal in the women’s race.
The 30-year-old has endured a torrid time since the COVID-delayed Tokyo Olympics last year, suffering a miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy.
“I’ve never felt so much pressure trying to win a bronze medal in my entire career,” Kenny said.
New Zealand also won the women’s team sprint.
Flora Duffy – Bermuda’s first-ever Olympic champion – became the first triathlete to win two Commonwealth Games titles with a dominating display at Sutton Park.
The 34-year-old finished the sprint-distance event in 55min 25sec.
That was 41 seconds clear of England’s Georgia Taylor-Brown, who also won silver behind Duffy in Tokyo last year.
England’s Alex Yee won the men’s event in 50 min 34 sec.
Australia beat India by three wickets in the first-ever Commonwealth Games women’s cricket match, with Ash Gardner scoring 52 runs and Jess Jonassen taking it 4-22 in the Twenty20 match.
In the final game, also at Edgbaston, Barbados beat Pakistan by 15 points.
England became the first team to win three consecutive team gymnastics gold medals at the Commonwealth Games with a win for the men.