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Day 1 Ends In Puff of Smoke To Fix The Bugs

Oct 4, 2010  - Craig Lord

Day one done and Australia has stamped its authority on events at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, with three gold and two silver medals despite a spoonful of big misses.

If Emily Seebohm's quest for eight gold medals was said to be over, comfort for the Dolphins was to be found within its school: Alicia Coutts cracked out a 2:09.70 in the 200m medley that gave the land from Down Under (gosh, how they like to play that tune at meets when the Dolphins surface for top honours) a second sub-2:10 swimmer in the post-poly ban era. And that's not counting the Olympic champion back home already preparing for a brighter post-shoulder op day (Stephanie Rice).

In other finals, Kylie Palmer took the 200m free and the men's 4x100m free quartet sealed the golden day one triple by smacking the hands of England and the 2006 host nation's nemesis back in Melbourne, South Africa.

Seebohm, meanwhile, was said to have been aiming to "match American Michael Phelps' feat of eight golds at a meet". Daft comparison all round.  "It was a very tough race tonight, all credit to Alicia," said Seebohm. "You've just got to deal with it sometimes."

There to witness everyone dealing with Aussie might was Prince Charles and youngest brother, Prince Edward, who presented medals for the women's 200m freestyle.

On a day when two champions from 2006 succumbed in heats (Moss Burmester and Caitlin McClatchey), Nick D'Arcy, after a close call with Mr Phelps in Irvine at Pan Pacs in July, was among casualties. D'Arcy's coach Brian Stehr said his swimmer was "a shadow of his former self ...  I really don't know what the problem was, but it's obviously another setback for Nick."

Australia, meanwhile, continue to hunt for talent capable of replacing Kieren Perkins, Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett. A tall order. In the meantime, victory in 3:48 for Ryan Cochrane (CAN) in the 400m free, with Ryan Napoleon (AUS) chasing confirmed that the Commonwealth has some catching up to do if it wishes to be competitive in the wider world over eight laps.

That said, there can be no question that Aussie men are on the up once more. Four years ago it took them all week to  claim one gold in the final session. Today, Australia's men took the relay, a silver in the 400m free and placed three men in the middle of the pool for the 50m final back tomorrow.

That relay victory in a Games record produced a side drama not to be missed. A 10-minute delay followed shared laughter between Liam Tancock (ENG) and Eamon Sullivan (AUS) and some worried looks from Simon Burnett as first man up for England, a team that had good reason not to want to take the plunge.

Tancock called the sizeable critters in his lane "bugs". It was believed by officials last night that what the world 50 back champ had spotted swimming up lane 5 was a small flotilla of Indian monsoon or stag beetles.

A man was summoned to fish them out with a net on a long pole. That done, the relay went ahead. And when the medals had been handed out, the crowds gone and the lights dimmed a man with a fumigation canon emerged from the deep end behind the diving boards and torched the vault-like venue with thick white smoke. The bugs would be beaten, come what may.

Day 1 race coverage: