Swimmers dominant as Australia get off to golden start at Commonwealth Games

Superb in the swimming pool and tremendous on the track, Australia is in a dominant position on the medal table after a superb opening day at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. From the return of swimming star Ariarne Titmus to another milestone moment for champion wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy, it was a largely successful day for the green and gold.

Australia head the gold medal tally after winning eight of the 16 awarded on Friday, all of those claimed in either the swimming pool or the velodrome in London, and sit five ahead of New Zealand. Host nation England won the medal tally when the Commonwealth Games were last held in the United Kingdom in Glasgow in 2014, but already trail Australia by six gold medals.

Fresh from an outstanding performance in the World Championships in Budapest last month, Australia’s swimmers won five of the seven finals conducted. The nation also filled 11 of the 21 podium spots in a dominant display, though Canadian teenage sensation Summer McIntosh was the standout swimmer when producing an incredible display to win the 400m individual medley by nearly eight seconds.

Titmus, a dual-gold medallist in Tokyo, drew on all her star power to hold off compatriot Mollie O’Callaghan in the 200m freestyle. The 18-year-old swam on the shoulder of the champion when falling 0.13 seconds short of upsetting Titmus, who swam 1:53.89 to set a new Commonwealth Games record. Madi Wilson completed an Australian trifecta when third.

“I knew there was a bit of hype around the world record, but I really don’t think about that much. I just go out there and try and race the best I can,” Titmus said.

Tokyo gold medallist Zac Stubblety-Cook also has a Commonwealth Games gold medal to add to his trophy cabinet after winning the 200m breaststroke in Friday’s penultimate final. In recording a time of 2:08.07, the 23-year-old was pushed to the wall by England’s James Wilby, with Scotland’s Ross Murdoch taking the bronze medal.

Earlier, Elijah Winnington started the party when leading home another Australian hat-trick in the 400m freestyle, with Sam Short and Mack Horton also finishing on the podium. Tim Hodge was an easy victor in the 100m backstroke S9, while Emma McKeon anchored Australia to a success in the mixed 100m freestyle relay to close out the night.

At the Lee Valley VeloPark, Jess Gallagher and her pilot Caitlin Ward combined to win the nation’s first gold medal in Birmingham in the women’s tandem B Para-track event. Gallagher, who owns winter and summer Paralympic medals, has also represented Australia in skiing and athletics and is also determined to make a mark in rowing.

“I just keep getting better with age. It’s a real privilege to be a Paralympian and hopefully to inspire anyone with a disability out there, but particularly kids,” Gallagher said.

In the velodrome, Georgia Baker, Maeve Plouffe, Sophie Edwards and Chloe Moran smashed the Commonwealth Games record in the women’s 4000m team pursuit. The quartet initially set a Games record of 4:14.605 when qualifying fastest and lowered the time to 4:12.234 when far too good for New Zealand in the final.

The sprint team of Leigh Hoffman, Matthew Glaetzer and Matthew Richardson made it a third track gold medal when setting another Games record.

The men’s 4000m pursuit team had harboured gold medal aspirations but ultimately had to settle for bronze after failing to qualify for the final.

Australia’s world-beating cricketers were stretched to the brink by India in the first ever women’s match held at a Commonwealth Games but ultimately prevailed by three wickets. On a historic day at Edgbaston, Healy set a new mark for excellence as the 22nd edition of the Games began under a brilliant blue sky.

Smriti Mandhana had scored 24 runs from 17 balls when, in the fourth over of the T20 clash, Healy reached low to her left to take a splendid catch off the bowling of Darcie Brown. It was the 32-year-old’s 100th dismissal in the short-form of the game, making her the first man or woman in Twenty20 history to reach the mark.

Australian captain Meg Lanning praised Healy, though her good fortune did not extend to batting, with the opener dismissed for a duck on the second ball of the innings. “Alyssa is an amazing player and has been for a long period of time and to achieve that is incredible and just shows how good she is,” she said.

Australia were in significant trouble chasing India’s total of 154 when slumping to 49-5 before Grace Harris, who scored 37 from 20 balls, and Ashleigh Gardner, who was unbeaten on 52, seized control.

In another Commonwealth Games first, Australia’s 3×3 women’s basketball team won their first match in the newly included sport 21-9 over Scotland, while the Diamonds started their campaign to reclaim gold in the netball after their disappointment on the Gold Coast with a dominant 95-18 defeat of Barbados.

The women’s rugby sevens team were dominant in their two outings on Friday when scoring a combined 88-0 in wins over South Africa and Scotland, but the men’s side suffered a setback when, after thrashing Jamaica, they drew with Uganda when left with just five men on the park in the final minutes.