BIRMINGHAM, UK: Australia dominated the first night of action in the Commonwealth Games pool in Birmingham on Friday to race clear at the top of medals table.
Olympic champions Ariarne Titmus and Zac Stubblety-Cook showed their class in tight races while world champion Elijah Winnington powered home in style.
Australia finished their evening on cloud nine by winning the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay, with Emma McKeon collecting the ninth Commonwealth gold of her career.
They won eight medals out of a possible 16 on day one of sporting action at the Games — five clear of second-placed New Zealand.
Titmus, who won 200m and 400m freestyle gold at last year’s Tokyo Olympics, was given a mighty scare in the women’s 200m freestyle at the Sandwell Aquatics Center by 18-year-old compatriot Mollie O’Callaghan.
The double Olympic champion was in control for most of the race but was hunted down the final stretch, edging home by just 0.12sec in a new Games record of 1min 53.89sec.
“Moll has been killing in training, she is young, feisty, hungry — I knew she would be there,” Titmus told Australia’s Channel 7. “It is fun to have a race.”
“I love it that we are in a country where we have depth like this,” added the 21-year-old, who recently had a bout of coronavirus.
Winnington stormed to 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, tired in the latter stages, clocking 3: 43.06.
Winnington, who almost quit the sport after a poor Olympics last year, said he was not too disappointed that he had faded in the final stages to miss out on a shot at the world record.
“It’s something to chase,” he said. “My coach and I always say it’s pretty hard being the hunted but having that world record there means I am still the hunter.”
Olympic and world men’s 200m breaststroke champion Stubblety-Cook was put under immense pressure by England’s defending champion James Wilby but powered down the home straight to win in 2: 08.07.
Canada’s Summer McIntosh, just 15 years old, destroyed the field in the women’s 400m individual medley.
She recorded a new Games record of 4: 29.01 — more than three seconds quicker than her winning time at the recent world championships.
Breaking her own world junior record, she finished nearly eight seconds clear of second-placed Australian Kiah Melverton.
“I’ve been working on a lot of stuff in training so I can execute my 400m IM better than I did at the worlds, because I had so much room for improvement — and I still do,” she said.
In the cycling events, taking place in London, Australia won the women’s 4,000 meters team pursuit and New Zealand won the men’s event.
Much of the focus was on England’s Laura Kenny, who took an emotional bronze medal in the women’s race.
The 30-year-old has endured a torrid time since last year’s COVID-delayed Tokyo Olympics, suffering a miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy.
“I’ve never felt so much pressure to try to win a bronze medal in my whole 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 dominant display in 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 took silver behind Duffy in Tokyo last year.
England’s Alex Yee won the men’s event in a time of 50min 34sec.
Australia beat India by three wickets in the first-ever Commonwealth Games women’s cricket match, with Ash Gardner scoring 52 not out and Jess Jonassen taking 4-22 in the Twenty20 match.
In the later match, also at Edgbaston, Barbados beat Pakistan by 15 runs.
England became the first team to win three successive Commonwealth Games team gymnastics golds with victory for the men.