By Neil Leverett and Nicola Kenton
- England’s Aimee Willmott wins gold in women’s 400m IM, pipping defending champion Hannah Miley of Scotland
- Team-mate James Wilby wins stunning gold also ahead of defending champ Ross Murdoch in 200m breaststroke
- XXI Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia run until April 15
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA – England’s Aimee Wilmott de-throned two-time defending Commonwealth champion Hannah Miley in the women’s 400m IM in the pool, as the home nations enjoy a prosperous opening day down under.
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Willmott pips Miley to claim Commonwealth title
Team England ended Day 1 of the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia topping the medal table after England’s Aimee Willmott fought off a late surge by defending champion Scot Hannah Miley in the final of the women’s 400m individual medley at the Optus Aquatics Centre.
The 25-year-old Middlesbrough swimmer – ironically trained now in Stirling, like Miley – clocked a time of 4.34.90 ahead of the two-time champion of Delhi and Glasgow in 2010 and 2014 respectively, to claim her first medal major medal having been beaten by Miley four years ago on Scottish home water.
Willmott, despite having a weaker stroke and freestyle final two legs held off her British team-mate by a nose over the last 150m metres, before pushing out to a lead and what was a surprise win for the Englishwoman.
After a season in which the athlete broke her ribs, it was a massive tonic for the swimmer who will now look to go for the double in the 200m butterfly on Monday.
Wilby wins stunning gold to complete English double
In the men’s 200m breaststroke Britain’s dominance of the event spear-headed by Adam Peaty was expected to continue despite the Uttoxeter man pulling out to concentrate on the sprint distances later in the meet.
Like Miley, Ross Murdoch was strong favourite to defend the gold he won in Glasgow in 2014, but like in the IM, England again came out on top over their British neighbours only this time is far more stunning fashion, as James Wilby swam a storming final 50m to grab gold.
In a stacked final, no less than three Scots and two Englishman were vying for a place on the podium. With Murdoch leading at the half-way stage the biggest threat appeared to be coming from Andrew Willis who finished an agonizing fourth twice at the Rio Olympics two years ago, and Australian Matt Wilson.
As Murdoch battled to hold off the home athlete roared on by the crowd, Wilby then stormed through the field – Peaty like – from third place at the final turn. The 24-year-old who had watched the rise of breaststroke in Britain then staked his own place in sporting history to overhaul Wilson and and then in the final strokes nose ahead of Murdoch, to claim a stunning Commonwealth crown by .27 of a second – the first English swimmer since Nick Gillingham in 1984 in Victoria to win gold in the event.
Wins for both Willmott and Wilby were added to in the Para events by Tom Hamer and Ellie Robinson in Gold Coast.
Triathlon podiums for Learmonth and Austin
For the women’s triathlon, World and Olympic champion Flora Duffy claimed the title and won the first gold medal of the 2018 Games. The Bermudan pulled out a 43 second victory over England’s Jess Learmonth who picked up the silver with Canada’s Joanna Brown taking the bronze just ahead of England’s Vicki Holland in fourth. Wales’ Non Stanford finished in eight position, while Scotland’s Beth Potter ended the event in 12th.
Heading into the men’s triathlon, all the talk was about Alistair and Jonny Brownlee who won gold and silver in Glasgow in 2014. However, it was not to be for the Leeds duo who could not produce the run needed to claim a podium place. The elder Brownlee brother was England’s flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony and came out of the second transition following the 20km cycle in first place but South African Henri Schoeman proved to be too strong over the 5km run.
It was Schoeman who took the Commonwealth title with Australia’s Jacob Birtwhistle in second place and Scotland’s Marc Austin producing a stellar run to take the bronze medal. The English brothers faded towards the end of the race with Jonny Brownlee finishing in seventh while Olympic champion Alistair completed the race in tenth position.
England win men’s team gymnastics gold, as Scotland take bronze
In the gymnastics arena, it was defending champions England who retained their men’s team final title winning by a margin of ten points over Canada with Scotland in the bronze position. The final also acted as qualification for individual apparatus event finals, as well as the all-around final but only two competitors from each nation are allowed to qualify for the finals. Nile Wilson and James Hall qualified for the all-around for England, while Olympic champion Max Whitlock only competed on the pommel horse and floor exercise.
Scotland recovered to take the bronze medal after having two falls on the pommel horse early on. Furthermore, Kelvin Cham injured his ankle during his dismount from the rings and had to receive medical attention. Two Scottish athletes, Hamish Carter and Frank Baines, secured qualification for the all-around final with Olympic bronze medallist Dan Purvis just missing out.
Medal rush at the Anna Meares Velodrome
The opening day of the track cycling saw many of the team finals taking place alongside the two of the blind and visually impaired categories. First on the track in the evening session was Sophie Thornhill and her pilot Helen Scott who powered their way to gold in the sprint final, winning the first two of three races to retain their Commonwealth title. Next was the 1000m time trial which saw Scotland’s Neil Fachie and pilot Matt Rotherham storm to gold in a Commonwealth Games record time. James Ball and Peter Mitchell of Wales came in second with Australian Brad Henderson and Tom Clarke completing the podium.
In the team pursuit it was all about Australia as they took both the men’s and women’s titles. England’s women finished fourth in the event, while on the men’s side the team qualified for the gold medal ride. However, Australia’s men set a world record – the first time a team has ridden below 3 minutes 50 seconds in the event which left England to pick up the silver medal. Wales just missed out on the bronze medal with Canada claiming the final podium spot.
In the team sprint, it was Australia who took the gold on the women’s side with a Commonwealth Games record, while England beat Wales to take the bronze. The men’s final was contested between New Zealand and England with the home nation just missing out on the title and claiming the silver medal. England ended the first day on track with one gold, two silver and one bronze medal, while Scotland also have one gold and Wales picked up one silver.
The XXI Commonwealth Games continue on Friday and run until Sunday 15 April, in Gold Coast, Australia.
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