This meet has seen some amazing drama, world records, Commonwealth records and numerous national records but tonight was a night for history to be made. We didn’t have to wait long for the moment to come; the session was barely 3 minutes old before a new name went down in the annals of Commonwealth Games history.
The women’s 100 fly was always about Petria Thomas. No woman had successfully defended a commonwealth swimming title twice in the same event. It never looked in doubt from the gun however as Thomas went clear form of the field to clearly touch first in a time of 58.57. She now only needs to win the 200m fly, an event in which she is ranked number 1, to claim a clean sweep of butterfly events. In second place Mandy Loots continued a good week for South Africa, whose stringent selection criteria is being validated as they picked up their 6th silver of the meet. There was a tight battle for the bronze, with Jenny Button of Canada just touching ahead of Georgina Lee, who appeared to be suffering from her efforts in the relay last night.
As with the 100m event, the men’s 50 breaststroke was all about the English swimmers. A clearly fired up Darren Mew just failed to beat the time James Gibson had set in the first semi final of 27.56, recording a 27.57. 100m champion Adam Whitehead went though in 3rd palce and once again the British men will be looking for a clean sweep fo teh medals.
In the women’s 50 backstroke semi finals Sarah Price set yet another British record despite having a diabolical start, giving world course champion Jennifer Carroll a metre head start. She hunted the Canadian down in the final 10 m to record 29.13, but that was not as fast as Australian Dyana Calub who qualified fastest from the first race. Price has a chance of wining, but will need to start perfectly to be in with a shot, whilst Carroll will be a definite threat. Katy Sexton finished in 10th and just failed to make it through.
The blue riband event of the freestyle events the 100m saw Thorpe going for his 5th gold. The talk on the poolside had been that Ryk Neethling might upset the favourite, or that Ashley Callus might have enough firepower to take the gold. Neither of these was to be, as Neethling went from the gun, only to be pegged back in the second 25m. From that point on thee would only be one winner, despite the big move Callus put in moving through 75m. In the end Thorpe was well clear at the touch, to win in 48.73 another new games record and take that 5th gold. Callus took silver and Neethling held on from a fast finishing Matt Kidd to the bronze. Kidd recorded another swim under 50s at 49.99, but a time close to his British Record form the semis would have won the bronze.
No sooner had he received his medal Thorpe was back in the pool in the fist semi of the men’s 100m Backstroke. His start was anything but graceful, but his fantastic butterfly kick and the immense power he was able to apply to the water brought him safely though without expending unnecessary effort. He won that race in 56.49 to go through to the final in second fastest. In the same race Simon Burnett was fourth. In the second race Matt Welsh was a man with a point to prove following the controversy surrounding hi in the 200 event and blasted away from the start and held the lead all they way through to record a time of 55.91, well clear of Thorpe’s effort, with Alex Lim of Malaysia in second. Gregor Tait made it through to the final also ahead of Thorpe having finished 3rd, whilst Ruckwood in 4th and Martin Harris in 5th also made into the final.
The women’s 100 breaststroke semis were all about the Aussies. Liesel Jones, Brooke Hanson and Tarni White are the swimmers to beat in tomorrow’s final as they were clearly fastest in both semi finals and qualified 1-2-3 for the final. What was particularly impressive was the quality of all of the Australians turns where they were taking metres out f the other competitors. Canada’s Rhiannon Leir and South Africa’s Sarah Poewe will have to up their game significantly to prevent a green and gold clean sweep. Jaime King and Kate Haywood also made it into the final, but will have to break the British record by a considerable margin if they are to have nay chance of gold. Heidi Earp just missed out from 5th place in the first semi final.
Alison Sheppard had lowered her own British and Commonwealth record in the heats of the 50m freestyle, and she was in dominant form again in the semi’s, easily heading the field in the second semi by a significant margin, to finish just outside her new record in an impressive 24.79. She goes into the final 0.7s faster than the next fastest swimmer. That was Jodie Henry, the 100m champion, who won the first semi just form Toni Jeffs of New Zealand. English record holder Ros Brett also made it into the final for third place. Wale’s Catrin Davies was just outside her own Welsh record in 4th, and qualified in 8th place.
In the final set of semis, the home challenge in the butterfly events was reignited as Steve Parry and James Hickman both made the final from the first semi, won by Australian Adam Pine. Beckenham’s David Bennet also made it through from 5th. Pine was very impressive. Although he did seem to tie up in the last 5m, as Hickman bore down on him. The man they will all have to beat though is defending champion Geoff Heugill. He was pushed all the way by Mike Mintenko but still won the race. These two were well ahead of the field as Heugill recorded a new games record of 52.36 to finish almost a second faster than his nearest challenger. Todd Cooper was just outside his own Scottish record but made it through to the final in any case.
The ladies 100m multi disability final went exactly as expected, as Nathalie du Toit, who had set a world record in the heats, cruised though to gold as she warmed up for the 800m final later in the session with another medal and another world record. Elaine Barrett was in her second final and performed commendably finishing in a new PB in 5th position. Sarah Bailey of England also swam well finishing 7th. Canadians Stephanie Dixon and Kirby Cote took the silver and bronze.
The 400m medley for men took place with Adrian Turner of England the only domestic representation and was Canada’s best chance of their first gold medal. To do that though the three maple leafs would have to overcome 200 fly winner Justin Norris and South African Olympic medallist Terence Parkin. Brian Johns went out fast on the fly and extended his lead on the backstroke led. Dean Kent of New Zealand was also challenging as the breaststroke leg got underway. But the class breaststrokers in the field Parkin carved though the field to get in to gold medal contention. Johns held on though and demonstrated his great 200m freestyle pace, holding on well despite Norris suddenly appearing in second as the 50m mark of the freestyle leg approached. All eyes were in the centre of the pool as with 5m to go Norris hit the front to take gold and a games record, but suddenly Turner had come form nowhere to beat Parkin and Kent for a fabulous bronze medal and a 5 second PB.
In the final event of the session the women’s 800m free, Rebecca Cooke had qualified well clear of Amanda Pascoe, but du Toit had caught the attention having become the first disabled competitor to qualify for an able bodied final in any international competition. The early leader though was Janelle Atkinson of Jamaica but Cooke soon asserted her authority on the rest of the field, opening up a clear lead. Pascoe held on initially, but at halfway was over 2m down on the English girl. At that point Cooke made a definite move to break the Australian but although she opened up the lead, she just couldn’t shake her. Finally with 150m to home she seemed to have dropped Pascoe for good and accelerated into the finish to take gold in a new lifetime best agonisingly close to the 16 year old British record of Sarah Hardcastle, in 8:28.54. Pasoce took silver and Atkinson bronze. Fellow England swimmers Caroline Saxby and Nathalie Brown finished in 5th and 6th. du Toit was, as expected eighth, but received a standing ovation for a tremendous swim.