Emma McKeon has written her name into the history books as the most successful athlete in Commonwealth Games history after winning her 11th gold medal in the women’s 50m freestyle, as the Australian women’s 4x200m freestyle relay team set Birmingham alight with a world record.
Australia cemented their position atop of the medal table on day three, with a further nine golds across rugby sevens, gymnastics, swimming and track cycling to take the country’s total haul to 22 gold – double that of host nation England in second place.
In a stunning performance at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre, Ariarne Titmus clocked the fastest-ever women’s 200m freestyle split to anchor the Australian relay team of Madi Wilson, Kiah Melverton and Mollie O’Callaghan to gold in a world-record seven minutes and 39.29 seconds and better the mark of 7:40.33 set by China at the Tokyo Olympics.
And women’s 100m backstroke world record holder Kaylee McKeown won her pet event.
But McKeon was the ultimate star of the show.
The Olympic champion started the one-lap final first and finished in identical fashion on Monday morning (AEST) to surpass fellow Australian greats Susie O’Neill, Ian Thorpe and Leisel Jones, who are tied on 10 gold medals apiece.
McKeon had faced stiff competition from fastest qualifiers Shayna Jack and Meg Harris but, though her compatriots surged in the second 25m, McKeon found another gear to lead the clean sweep as Harris took silver and Jack bronze.
The triumph follows her earlier victories in Birmingham in the mixed 4×100 freestyle relay and women’s 4×100 freestyle relay. She also won four gold medals at each of the 2018 Gold Coast Games and the 2014 edition in Glasgow.
“It’s really nice to be mentioned alongside some of those names and I will be part of that history for years to come, hopefully,” McKeon said. “They’re the ones who inspired me when I was young. I remember watching them on TV and that lit the fire in me to be where I am now.
“It is special. It makes me reflect on the last eight years since my first Commonwealth Games. I can see how far I’ve come as a person and an athlete.”
McKeon, who is also Australia’s most decorated Olympian with 11 medals – five gold, two silver and four bronze – will have the opportunity to add to her collection at these Games when she contests four further events. Earlier on Monday morning, she qualified fastest for the 50m butterfly final.
Also in the swimming, Zac Stubblety-Cook (men’s 100m breaststroke), Jenna Strauch (women’s 200m breaststroke) and Tim Hodge (men’s 100m breaststroke S8) grabbed silvers while Blake Cochrane (men’s 100m breaststroke S8) and Sam Williamson (men’s 100m breaststroke) secured bronzes.
And Kyle Chalmers put aside the controversy of the past 24 hours to qualify quickest for the men’s 100m final with the second-fastest time this year.
It came as Australia won gold in the women’s rugby sevens for the first time with a 22-12 defeat of Fiji in the final. Fiji, who knocked Australia out of the Tokyo Olympics in the quarter-finals and beat them during the group rounds in Birmingham, were no match for the green and gold in the final.
Madison Ashby and Madi Levi both scored tries and Faith Nathan went over twice to set up a 22-0 lead and held on as Fiji scored just before full-time and again after the siren. The men’s team settled for fourth place, losing 26-12 to New Zealand in the bronze-medal game.
In a shocking and dramatic day of cycling, Australia claimed four golds thanks to Matt Richardson (men’s sprint), Georgia Baker (women’s 25km point race), Kristina Clonan (women’s 500m time trial final), and para-cyclist Jess Gallagher and pilot Caitlin Ward (women’s tandem B 1000m time trial).
But it was another unfortunate day for Matt Glaetzer, who thought he pipped Jack Carlin of Scotland to bronze in the sprint but was relegated after race commissaires judged he had used unfair contact.
Beau Wootton and his pilot Luke Zaccaria also secured bronze in the men’s tandem B sprint.
In the gymnastics, Georgia Godwin won her first Commonwealth Games gold medal in the all-around rhythmic. The Queenslander, who claimed silver in the teams event over the weekend, produced a rousing performance her fourth and final discipline at Arena Birmingham, where she performed her floor routine to a Michael Bublé version of Feeling Good.
Godwin finished ahead of England’s Ondine Achampong and Canada’s Emma Spence to become the first Australian to win the event since Lauren Mitchell at Delhi 2010. The 24-year-old did so against the odds, having considered skipping the 2022 Games due to ankle injuries.
In the triathlon, Sophie Linn anchored Australia to bronze in the mixed-team relay to build on Matt Hauser’s bronze in the individual race two days ago.
The women’s cricket team claimed a nine-wicket win over Barbados to guarantee a place in the semi-finals ahead of Wednesday’s final group game against Pakistan.
Olympic silver medal-winning volleyball team, Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar, won their opening pool match, beating Sri Lanka in straight sets.