Commonwealth Games: Day 6 Finals
Mar 21, 2006 - Nikki Dryden in Melbourne
Eight countries win gold, while the Aussie men win the last event to prevent a shutout. British swimmers get closer to Australia than they have for more than 60 years with 15 gold medals to the hosts' 17. Canada hits its stride with 4 medals and the Aussie women finish the meet in world record style as the "Friendly Games" end with all the swimmers taking a well-deserved victory lap around the pool and applauding the audience who cheered them on so well.
Men's 50 Free Final
Roland Schoeman (RSA) has the second fastest time ever performed in this event. His 21.69 is just off Alexander Popov's (RUS) world record, so he even if he's battling the flu, he has room to breathe over the rest of the competition. On world record pace until the 45 metre mark, Schoeman was out well ahead to win his second gold of the Games in 22.03-a new Games record. "I'm an animal," said Schoeman, a response that is becoming standard after one of his big wins. "I'm feeling better, I'm feeling good, I've put my game face on." In for silver in a new Canadian record was Brent Hayden (CAN) in 22.19 over Brett Hawke's (AUS) 22.31. This is Hawke's last meet and will hang up his goggles a medallist. "I'm real happy to come away with a medal, I took it like every other race and I feel good, I've achieved a lot in my career."
Hayden was 4th in the 100, 3rd in the 200 and now wins silver in a great improvement on his best. "I was pretty nervous," said Hayden. "I though I had a far shot at the medal. My plan was to keep going hard and hit my hand on the wall first."
Women's 200 Fly Final
Jessicah Schipper (AUS) should be the world record holder in this event. After being out-touched by Otylia Jedrzejczak (POL) at last summer's Worlds, underwater video revealed that Jedrzejczak had touched with one hand. She was not disqualified and the record stands. Schipper must wait yet another day for the title as she fell off world record pace in the final metres, her splits:
28.25 (-0.65) 59.96 (-1.23) 1:32.90 (-0.17) 2:06.06 (+0.65)
Schipper's final time of 2:06.06 was a new Games record and now gives her 3 of the top 10 performances of all-time, not bad for a 19 year old. "I was very happy with the swim," said Schipper. "My second fastest ever. It's nice to know I can swim that fast and that my time at last year's World champs in Montreal was no fluke." In for silver in a PB was Felicity Galvez (AUS) in 2:08.16. "I'm so happy!" said Galvez. "I was a bit nervous this morning, but I just went in there and had fun." A tight battle developed for the bronze between Terri Dunning (ENG) and Audrey Lacroix (CAN). Lacroix was the bronze medallist in the 100 after 3 consecutive PBs in the shorter event. Despite another best, she couldn't quite squeak out another medal as Dunning out-touched her 2:09.87 to 2:09.96.
Men's 200 Breast Final
Mike Brown (CAN) was swimming, not just with the hopes of a Canadian nation on his back, but with the pressure of the entire swimming community; to see a gold medal shutout for the Aussie men Brown had to win this event. He did it by 1 one-hundredth of a second. Coming from way behind on the last 50 Brown made up 1 second on early leader and defending Games champ Jim Piper (AUS) to out-touch not only Piper, but also double bronze medallist Brenton Rickard (AUS) who also came from behind. Brown touched in 2:12.23 to Rickard's 2:12.24 to Piper's 2:12.26…the closest final of the Games. "Yeah it was a fun race," said Rickard. "We all put it on the line out there. It's just been one of those meets where I just can't get over the line first! I think I've been beaten by about 0.3 in all my races. I tried, but I just couldn't get there."
Brown's win was the first for Canada in the pool in 8 years, after being shutout in '02. "I haven't had the best meet," said Brown, "I've felt bad in the water and my 100 breast was a second off my best. So it took a lot mentally to overcome that. I had to trust my coach, trust my training, trust everything to do it."
Women's 400IM Final
She had to break Hayley Lewis's (AUS) Games record to do it, but 17 year old Stephanie Rice (AUS) won her second gold of the Games in 4:41.91 over 800 free champ Becky Cooke (ENG) who touched in 4:44.60-a PB and new British record. "I never even thought about it," said Rice. "This is a 5 second PB for me!" The battle for bronze went to the '02 champ in this event, Jen Reilly (AUS) in 4:47.13 over Hannah Miley (SCO) in 4:47.95. "I'm stoked for Steph," said Reilly. "I'm stoked for myself! I missed last year from serious pneumonia, so to make the team and final and to get a medal is a dream."
Men's 1500 Free Final
There was no question who would win this final: David Davies (WAL) is the 4th fastest ever in the world in this event. The big question was how fast would he go? Finishing in 14:57.63, the race was solid, but not his best. Andrew Hurd (CAN) on the other hand, dropped his best for a new Canadian record and a silver medal. It's been 6 years since he swam a PB in this event, but he timed it right to go a 15:09.44. The bronze went to Hercules Prinsloo (RSA) in 15:11.88.
"I really surprised myself with that," said Hurd. "I didn't think I could go that fast. But I just followed my strategy and it paid off." Coming from as far back as 6th spot at the 400, Hurd talked about how important it is to stick to his race plan. "When I was younger I used to freak out a bit when I was so far behind, but now that I am more experienced I know how to calm myself down." As for his second silver of the Games, "I feel great and couldn't ask for anything better."
Women's 4x100 Medley Relay Final
There was no doubt the Australian women would win this one, but again it was a question of how fast. With all the individual event winners, a Games record was certain and a world record the goal. In a fitting ending to an amazing meet for the Aussie women, they smashed their own Games and world record with a 3:56.30. Leisel Jones' breast split of 1:05.51 is the fastest of all-time as Libby Lenton's 52.87 free split. In for silver was England in 4:04.61-in a new English record followed by a fast finishing Canada in 4:05.95. Anchor Erica Morningstar had the second fastest free split of the event with a 54.89.
Men's 4x100 Medley Relay Final
None of them could do it alone, but together Australians Matt Welsh, Brenton Rickard, Michael Klim and Eamon Sullivan were able to come away with a hard fought and well-deserved Commonwealth gold medal. It was almost a gold medal shut-out for the Aussie men-a first in history. But these veteran swimmers did not want to go home empty handed and finished in a Games record of 3:34.37. Great splits came from all 4 men, but Rickard's 59.51 makes him the 3rd fastest of the all-time breast splits, while Klim's 51.87 puts him 12th and Sullivan's 48.15 puts him 19th.
In for silver and missing their top freestyler Simon Burnett who left for the NCAA champs that start in 2 days, was England in 3:36.40 to Scotland's 3:39.75. Canada was unable to get onto the podium, finishing in 3:39.87.
Final Medal Standings
AUS 19 18 17 54
ENG 8 11 4 23
SCO 6 3 3 12
RSA 5 2 5 12
CAN 1 7 8 16
NZL 1 1 4 6
WAL 1 0 2 3
PNG 1 0 0 1