By Kathleen Rayment and Ian Hanson
Australia’s all-conquering women’s 4x100m freestyle relay team completed a golden opening night for the Dolphins by smashing their own world record in front of a sell-out crowd at the Optus Aquatic Centre.
The combination of Shayna Jack, Bronte Campbell, Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell clocked a time of 3:30.05 to knock 0.60 seconds off their own mark set at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Jack started off in 54.03 followed by Bronte Campbell in 52.03, McKeon in 52.99 and Cate Campbell setting the fastest relay split by a female in history a sizzling 51.00 – an amazing 0.97 faster than her Rio split.
It followed Mack Horton’s powerhouse performance to win Australia’s first gold medal of the Commonwealth Games in the men’s 400m freestyle.
“That was just incredible, so proud of these girls and to set a new world record here on the Gold Coast in front of this amazing crowd….wow….words can’t explain,” said Cate Campbell.
“It was a fantastic swim by everyone involved, relays are my favorite event – they’re the ones that you can relax and enjoy the most and you get to share it with your teammates.
“Obviously, I’ve lived most of my life with Bronte, I train with Shayna and I’ve grown up with Emma, so to do something special with three incredible women is a pretty rare event,” Cate said.
“I could hear the crowd roaring and I knew something must be going on, I turned around and looked at the screen and Cate was half a body-length in front of the (world record) line, so that was pretty exciting for all of us,” Bronte Campbell said.
“I had tears in my eyes just thinking about the fact that we were going to get that world record and then we got it!” Jack said.
“I honestly am so grateful, training next to Cate and Bronte it’s just a dream come true…”
Mack Horton soaked up the atmosphere and produced a powerful finish in the 400 free tonight to give Australia a golden start in the pool.
The 2016 Olympic champion became the 2014 Commonwealth Games champion with his trademark backend fast-finish to win the 400m freestyle in a 1-2 finish for the Australians with Queenslander Jack McLaughlin out-touching James Guy for silver by 0.11.
He produced a final 100m split of 56.14, making his move on the fifth lap after Guy tried to steal the race, sprinting to the lead after the first 200m.
But the Australian boys were quick to pounce, with Horton and then by McLoughlin, who swamped Guy down the final lap to out-touch the English champion.
Horton clocked 3:43.76 to take the gold with McLoughlin second in 3:45.21 and Guy again taking the bronze, as he did in Glasgow four years ago in 3:45.32.
“I had goose bumps when I walked out on to the pool deck – it’s an amazing feeling and with almost my entire family here that makes it even more special,” said Horton, who will now turn his attentions to the individual 200m freestyle, Australia’s 4x200m free relay and the 1500m free.
Horton’s win put a stopper on the dry spell in an event dominated by Australia between 1986 with Duncan Armstrong and 2002, when Ian Thorpe won our last Games gold in Manchester.
In a successful night in the pool for the Australians that saw:
– WA’s Blair Evans dedicated her bronze medal in the 400m individual medley to coach Bud McAllister, who is recovering from surgery for a brain cyst and treatment for a tumor on his spine. Evans held her nerve over the final freestyle leg to swim from fifth to bronze in 4:38.23.
– Brisbane schoolgirl Ariarne Titmus clocked one of the all-time top ten fastest times in history with a personal best (PB) of 1:54.85 to take silver in a blanket finish behind Canada’s teenage star Taylor Ruck (1:54.81) with defending champion Emma McKeon (AUS) taking bronze in 1:56.26.
– In the S14 200m freestyle Sunshine Coaster Liam Schluter (1:56.23) won silver and defending champion and two-time Paralympic medallist Daniel Fox (1:58.26) the bronze.
– A bronze to Sydney’s Mathew Wilson, the boy from the Blue Mountains, who fought hard in a thrilling photo finish to the 200m breaststroke to clock 2:08.64 behind England’s fast finishing James Wilby (2:08.05) and defending champion, Scotland’s Ross Murdoch (2:08.32) – just over half a second between them.
And in semi-final action Olympic silver medallist over 200m butterfly from Rio, Maddie Groves set a new Games record in the 100m butterfly with a PB of 57.22 – 0.18 under Canadian Katherine Savard’s time from Glasgow in 2014.
Mitch Larkin was almost back to his best, clocking a 53.15 to qualify fastest for the 100m backstroke final tomorrow night. The Dean Boxall coached star was in fine form qualifying ahead of Canada’s Markus Thormeyer (53.86) and Aussie debutant Bradley Woodward in 54.22. Ben Treffers will also move through to the final in sixth spot with a time of 54.62.
Griffith University’s Grant Irvine flew through the semi-final of his 50m butterfly in a time of 23.79 – just outside his PB to progress as second fastest for the final tomorrow night behind South Africa’s Chad Le Clos in 23.53. David Morgan will sneak into the final in eighth place, after clocking a 24.17.
In the women’s 50m breaststroke all three Australians defending champion Leiston Pickett, Georgia Bohl and Jessica Hansen have all qualified for Friday night’s final after Bohl and Hansen dead-heated for first in the first semi-final in 30.92 with Pickett third in 31.02. Jamacian defending champion and Games record holder Alia Atkinson’s 30.53 was the top qualifying time
At the conclusion of night one of six nights in the pool Australia sits on top of the medal tally with nine – two gold, three silver and four bronze.