By Neil Leverett and Nicola Kenton

  • England’s Ben Proud defends 50m freestyle title, as relay quartet nosed out for gold by Australia
  • Sophie Hitchon and Andrew Pozzi suffer disappointment once more in hammer and hurdles
  • XXI Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia run until April 15
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA – Ben Proud retains Commonwealth 50m freestyle crown, as England are pipped to defending their own title in the men’s 4x100m medley relay on the final evening in the pool.

 

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Proud holds nerve to retain freestyle crown

England’s Ben Proud put aside disappointment on day one of the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, defending his title in the men’s 50m freestyle final at the Optus Aquatics Centre.

The 23-year-old Londoner firmly buried memories of the opening day in the pool after being disqualified in the heats of the 50m butterfly, by beating the rest of the field by almost half a second over Brad Tandy of South Africa and Australian Cameron McEvoy in a winning time of 21.35.

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In the men’s 200m IM, Scotland’s Duncan Scott narrowly missed out on a second individual title producing a sterling final length to catch Australian duo Clyde Lewis and come within .21 of a second of Mitch Larkin, taking silver in a closely-fought race.

Wales’ Dan Jervis also took silver in the 1500m freesstyle beating veteran Mack Horton to second, as the latter’s team-mate Jack McLoughlin held on for yet another individual Aussie gold.

 

Relay quartet nosed out by Australia

In the final race of what has been a spectacular meet in the Gold Coast pool, the men’s 4x100m medley relay brought the curtain down on competition.

Pre-race it was expected to be a straight one-two fight between the hosts and defending champions England for the final gold and so it proved to be – indeed far closer than many had predicted.

With the quartet of Luke Greenback, Adam Peaty, James Guy and Proud – who had won gold only an hour earlier – hopes were high of pushing the hosts all the way.

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After newcomer Greenback was left trailing off the storming men in the yellow caps on the backstroke leg, Peaty then swam an incredible second to catch an then overhaul the leader to give Guy a slender advantage. Guy then extended the English lead to give Proud a half-second lead over Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers.

With Proud the dominant swimmer over one length of the pool, over an extra 50 metres it was always set to be a massive task. With 25 to go however, Proud was clinging on to the lead, but as Chalmers was roared on by a vociferous home crowd, the gold-medalist in Rio clawed and ate into Proud’s lead and got the touch just nine-one-hundredths-of-a-second ahead of his opponent.

It was agonizing for the English four, but having taken the United States to the brink in the same relay in Brazil to Olympic silver, the golden goal of Tokyo in 2020 is becoming a very realistic aim.

Earlier in the womens 4x100m Wales took bronze ahead of England as Georgia Davies, Chloe Tutton, Alys Thomas and Kathryn Greenslade finished third ahead of Australia and Canada.

Bronte Campbell and Taylor Ruck put on a grandstand finish on the final leg as the former snatched gold for the Australians – what would be their ninth out of ten on the final evening of the meet.

 

Hitchon, Pozzi suffer further disappointment

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At the Carrara Stadium, there was double disappointment for England, as both Sophie Hitchon and Andrew Pozzi finished outside of the medal reckoning with both strong contenders for Commonwealth gold.

In the women’s hammer in wet conditions in the stadium also, the athletes struggled with what was a narrow release point from the cage. Like many of the competitors, Hitchon failed to get a come to terms and threw two fouls to open her account.

The 26-year-old from Burnley who took bronze in Rio two years ago, but was hugely disappointed not to finish with silverware at the World Championships in London last August, then needed to just hit make a clean throw to continue in the competition.

As Hitchon stepped up to the circle, she cautiously rotated and released but crashed the hammer high into the netting and had again disappointingly suffered final woe.

In the 100m hurdles, clattered barriers again proved costly to England’s Pozzi. Having won gold in the 60m hurdles at the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham hoping only a few weeks ago, the 25-year-old was looking to reproduce that performance on the Gold Coast.
However, just like at the worlds’ – similarly to HItchon – the Englishman failed in his attempt to secure the Commonwealth title and instead came sixth in the 110m hurdles final as Jamaica’s Ronald Levy took gold.

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Having started the race well, Pozzi then clattered into the first hurdle but managed to recover and stay with amongst the field. Yet as the middle of the race approached, Pozzi’s race began to unfold again as he hit four hurdles in-a-row and went backwards. The Englishman was unable to stay with the front-runners, dropping back and ultimately ending the final in sixth place.
Levy and team-mate Hansle Parchment finished clear of the rest of the field with Australia’s Nicholas Hough finishing strong to claim the bronze medal ahead of Milan Trajkovic of Cyprus.
Pozzi admitted after the race that it ‘wasn’t good enough’ and will be now be focusing on re-grouping ahead of the European Championships this summer.

Home nations’ double lock-out in shooting

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There was delight for England, Scotland and Wales in the shooting as in two different events the home nations claimed a lockout on the Gold Coast podium.
In the Queen’s Prize Pairs, English duo David Luckman and Parag Patel won the gold medal and retained their title from Glasgow by beating Welsh pair Gareth Morris and Chris Watson. The bronze medal went to Ian Shaw and Alexander Walker of Scotland to complete the home nations podium.
David Phelps of Wales reigned supreme in the men’s 50m rifle prone contest, as he shot a Commonwealth Games record total of 248.8 to fend off Scotland’s Neil Stirton. It was also the 2006 Commonwealth champion’s 41st birthday and the crowd sung to him after his victory. England’s Kenneth Parr claimed the bronze medal

Time Trial medals for Tanfield and Simmonds

England cyclists Harry Tanfield and Hayley Simmonds rode to time trial medals on the first day of the road cycling. In the men’s race, Australian Cameron Meyer won the gold with Tanfield finishing 30 seconds behind the home favourite to claim the silver medal and two seconds ahead of New Zealand’s Hamish Bond.
Earlier in the week, his younger brother Charlie Tanfield had won a silver medal in the team and gold in the individual pursuits for Team England.

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In the women’s event, it was Hayley Simmonds who brought home the medal for England securing the bronze ahead of Scotland’s Katie Archibald who finished in fourth. When the Englishwoman found out that she had won the medal, she burst into tears having switched to cycling from rowing in 2010, in order to lose weight.
For England’s Melissa Lowther, it was a disappointing day as she was unable to take part in the time trial. An administrative error meant that she was not formally entered into the event and as a result, could not take part in her targeted event. Lowther will be part of the England squad for the road race which is happening on Sunday.

Trio of medals for England’s powerlifters

Finally on day six in Australia, the para-powerlifting proved fruitful for Team England also on the Gold Coast, who came away with three medals from the four events.
The first event was the men’s lightweight final which saw England’s Ali Jawad compete and win the bronze medal. Jawad, who suffers from Crohn’s disease, has been unable to compete for the last 18 months and thought that his career was over.

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The Englishman won silver at the Rio Paralympics but has had a torrid time since then, only returning to training six weeks ago and danced on the stage with delight as he realised he secured the bronze.
In the women’s lightweight final, Zoe Newson also claimed a bronze medal for England. She was beaten by Esther Oyema of Nigeria who broke the world record and won her third Commonwealth title in-a-row.
Louise Sugden clinched the silver medal in the women’s heavyweight final; the former wheelchair basketball player has been participating in the sport for less than a year but that didn’t stop her from securing the silver behind Nigeria’s Ndidi Nwosu.
The XXI Commonwealth Games continue on Wednesday and run until Sunday 15 April, on the Gold Coast, Australia.

 

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