Ariarne Titmus, Sam Short and the women’s 4x100m relay medley team picked up yet more gold for Australia as the Commonwealth Games swimming competition came to a close in Birmingham. A hugely successful campaign in the pool ended with triumph for Titmus in the women’s 400m freestyle – the 21-year-old’s seventh Commonwealth gold, in addition to two Olympic golds and two world titles.
Titmus, who defeated American champion Katie Ledecky in the event at the Tokyo Olympics, edged out emerging 15-year-old Canadian star Summer McIntosh in a thrilling race on Thursday morning AEST. McIntosh announced herself a star of the future at the world championships in Budapest and had won the 200m and 400m individual medleys at this meet.
A night after winning the 800-meter freestyle, Titmus recorded a time of 3:58.06 to edge McIntosh by just over one second. She also won the 200m freestyle.
Her latest success followed Short’s sensational swim to claim the 1500m freestyle gold medal and continued Australia’s rich tradition in the endurance race. The 18-year-old won a thrilling contest in 14:48.54, just over three seconds in front of Daniel Wiffen from Northern Ireland, with England’s Luke Turley third.
The women’s 4x100m relay medley team beat Canada with England claiming bronze.
100m freestyle heroine Mollie O’Callaghan gave Canadian world champion Kylie Masse a scare in the 50m backstroke when beaten by just 0.16 seconds. Maase, a four-time Olympic medallist, rallied late to win in 27.31 seconds with Kaylee McKeown continuing her superb meet to claim the bronze.
On the athletics track, resilience has been a feature throughout Peter Bol’s extraordinary life and the Australian athlete was not going to let an injured ankle derail his Commonwealth Games dreams. The 28-year-old, whose family fled Sudan’s civil war when he was four, has coped with the stress that comes with competing against the best in a gruelling event for the past decade.
There have been moments of brilliance, with his fourth-placed finish in the Tokyo Olympics last year an illustration. More recently, a seventh in the world championships was deflating. On Tuesday, when he rolled an ankle ahead of his appearance in a heat of the 800m in Birmingham, Bol would have been forgiven for fearing the worst.
Instead he focused. He iced the ankle. Put the feet up. Iced the joint again. And again. It was a professional approach to a scare. He planned to fight on, no matter the pain. But it was not until Wednesday morning that he was convinced he would produce his best. Walking 800m on a dodgy ankle is painful, let alone running it. But Bol pulled it off with brilliance when clocking a time of 1:47.01 to qualify the fastest for Sunday’s final at Alexander Stadium.
“I rolled my ankle yesterday and I was limping on the way back and today I’m perfectly fine, so it’s a massive thanks to the medical team at Athletics Australia,” he said. “I wasn’t playing basketball, I promise. I just rolled it on the curb at the track. That’s the first time ever. It was getting better by the night and then in the morning, I was like, ‘Bam. I am ready to go’.”
The ease with which he claimed the heat is testament to this. Bol trailed Kenyan Cornelius Tuwai, who has a faster personal best than the Western Australian, for the first 550m before dispatching with him to cruise to the line.
“To be honest, I did feel at ease and I enjoyed that a lot,” he said. “It was awesome to come back from the world’s, because it was a disappointing final, so to come back here and be in amazing shape and just switch off like that at the end is amazing.”
After being eliminated in the quarter-finals in Tokyo by India, Australia has a chance of redemption in a semi-final of the women’s hockey to be held in Birmingham on Friday. The Hockeyroos maintained a perfect record in their pool when defeating Scotland 2-0, while India claimed what was effectively a sudden-death clash against Canada 3-2 to progress.
Also maintaining a perfect record to reach the medal rounds was the Twenty20 women’s cricket team, who have performed brilliantly in their first Commonwealth Games. Excellent innings from the unbeaten Beth Mooney, who scored 70 off 49 balls, and Tahlia McGrath, who was 78 not out off 51 balls, helped Australia to a total 160-2 against Pakistan.
The Australians restricted Pakistan to 116-8 in their 44-run triumph, with McGrath also the best with the ball when taking three wickets. Edgbaston was a sea of Australian green and gold for the match with some hockey players in attendance, much to the delight of bowler Alana King, who took one wicket.
“It’s really nice that we’ve got their support. It is something special to have Team Australia behind us,” she said. “We’re hitting our straps nicely leading into the pointy end of the tournament.”
The Australians will learn their semi-final rival after the clash between England and New Zealand on Thursday.
Paul Burnett, a gold medallist on the Gold Coast four years ago in beach volleyball, and his new partner Chris McHugh qualified for the quarter-finals with their third straight sets win, though they were pushed by Rwanda before winning 21-16, 21-18.
In other action on Wednesday, Zoe Cuthbert became the first Australian to win a medal in mountain biking when finishing second at Cannock Chase Forest, north of Birmingham. The 21-year-old finished 47 seconds behind England’s Evie Campbell but demonstrated she is a star of the future with both her skill on the bike and race composure and awareness.
Australia’s oldest competitor Cheryl Lindfield, 63, has been a hit in the athletes’ village she is staying in, with the women’s rugby sevens team in particular taking a shine to her. Lindfield and her partner Serena Bonnell enjoyed a successful venture to Leamington Spa when claiming the silver medal in the para women’s pairs (B6-B8) lawn bowls.
The Australian combination were eventually outclassed by Scotland when beaten 17-5, making it the nation’s second loss in a final at the venue to the Scots in as many days.
“We were the underdogs,” she said. “We’re very happy with that. We’ll wake up tomorrow with a silver … so how good is that?”
Charisma Amoa Tarrant performed well at the weightlifting when claiming a bronze medal in the women’s 87kg class behind England’s Emily Campbell, who set a new Commonwealth mark.