Australia has had a bright start to the Commonwealth Games with track cyclists winning our first three gold medals, followed by a beautiful spectacle in the pool.
The Australian men’s sprint team and women’s pursuit quartet took record-breaking victories at the London Olympic velodrome on Friday.
Meanwhile, swim stars Ariarne Titmus and Elijah Winnington took gold in a clean run of their events.
Just a month after recovering from COVID, Ariarne Titmus has triumphed in the women’s 200m freestyle in Birmingham.
And Elijah Winnington, after nearly retiring from the sport last year, saluted in the men’s 400-meter freestyle.
Titmus defeated rising power and teammate Mollie O’Callaghan by just 0.12 seconds to win her final on Friday night with fellow dolphin Madi Wilson taking the bronze medal.
Winnington was victorious ahead of compatriots Sam Short and Mack Horton, who won silver and bronze respectively.
Winnington’s win continues his exciting swim redemption – he nearly gave up the sport after the bombing of the Tokyo Olympics last year when he came in as a raging favorite but finished seventh.
The Queenslander admitted to battling depression and feeling like a failure after Tokyo before seeking help from a psychologist and then a mindfulness coach.
After much introspection during months of absence from the pool, Winnington returned triumphantly to international competition at last month’s World Championships in Budapest, winning gold in his pet event.
And now he has added the Commonwealth crown to his collection.
“It was very difficult to get off Toyko’s back, I almost stopped,” said Winnington.
“I decided to go ahead and put myself and my mindset in the right place to achieve what I accomplished this year.”
Winnington was at world record pace until he faded slightly in the last 100 meters. He clocked three minutes and 43.06 seconds, about 3.01 less than the world benchmark set by the German Paul Biedermann in 2009.
“I really don’t mind,” Winnington said.
“It’s something to chase. It’s pretty hard to be the hunted, but with that world record there, I’m still the fighter.”
First Australian Gold
The Australian track cyclists gave our first three triumphs at the London Olympic track as a golden start to their Commonwealth Games campaign.
The Australian men’s sprint team and women’s pursuit quartet had record-breaking triumphs on Friday.
It came after notable Paralympic champion Jess Gallagher and her sighted pilot Caitlin Ward began digging the gold at the 2012 Olympics site by earning Australia’s first-ever gold of the Games in the tandem blind and visually impaired sprint.
Yet amid the flag-waving, there was a sense of frustration at the end of an era when the Australian flagship pursuit foursome failed to make the final at the Games for the first time ever.
They had to settle for bronze after winning the race for third place against Wales, but a four-medal start at least put Australia on pole position to dominate the track schedule, as it has in the past seven editions.
Gallagher and Ward defeated Scotland by two heats to nil to knock out the tandem B sprint event, and minutes later the chasers broke the Games record they had set in qualifying earlier on Friday.
Gallagher was already the only Australian to win a medal at the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games.
Then Georgia Baker, Sophie Edwards, Chloe Moran and Maeve Plouffe blew their final in four minutes 12.234 seconds to easily beat New Zealand by 5,750 seconds.
The New Zealanders were supposed to start four riders, but one of them stopped early so she could ride in the team sprint final later on Friday.
That meant the Australians would never lose the final, but they went under their 4:14,605 qualifier.
Evergreen Matt Glaetzer then took his fourth Commonwealth gold and took home the men’s sprint title with a hammer from the English trio after dazzling work from Leigh Hoffman and Matt Richardson.
The trio set a new Commonwealth Games record of 42.042 seconds, after also setting a new record in the qualifying stage.
But the men’s team pursuit failed to take the gold medal at a Commonwealth Games for the first time.
Australia had won gold or silver since the team pursuit was added to the schedule of the Games in 1974 and four years ago, the team broke the world record in Brisbane.
Luke Plapp is the only member of the bronze-medal winning combination of the Tokyo Olympics.
The renewed quartet of Plapp, Josh Duffy, Conor Leahy and James Moriarty qualified third after fastest qualifiers in New Zealand and England on Friday morning.
Australia recorded 51,274 seconds – 1,453 seconds behind NZ for three minutes.
There was bittersweet solace for Australia as they easily beat Wales in the bronze medal.
Green and gold equals speed 💯🇦🇺
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Graham Frislie replaced Moriarty and although the Australian time of 3:50.403 improved their qualifying time, it would also have been good enough to qualify them in the gold medal run.
New Zealand broke the Games record they set in qualifying, setting a time of 3:47.575 to beat England for the gold medal.
James Wootton and pilot Luke Zaccaria set the fastest time in the men’s 1km tandem time trial, but the next three teams dropped out of the medals.
Scottish great Neil Fachie won his fifth gold medal at the Games, paired with pilot Stewart Lewis, with Wales second and England third.