European swimmers claim six medals on day one of the Commonwealth Games
By Nick Hope
LEN Digital Editor
England’s James Wilby produced a brilliant 200m breaststroke performance to secure silver for the host nation on the opening night of swimming at Birmingham 2022.
The 28-year-old, who considered retiring after missing out on an individual medal at Tokyo 2020, pushed world record holder Zac Stubblety-Cook for much of the final.
The Australian edged ahead in the closing stages to take gold with Scotland’s Ross Murdoch third.
“It was always going to take a lot of commitment and I’d have loved to win, but it was just such an incredible race,” said Wilby. “To come away with a medal means a lot.”
British team-mate Murdoch, who was third, revealed this week that he did actually walk away from the sport for an 11 week period earlier in the year, but an intensive return to training ensured he would not only reach the Games, but the podium too.
“I can’t describe what that means to me tonight to get on the podium alongside my long time buddy,” said Murdoch, who completed his set of Commonwealth honours after gold at Glasgow 2014 and silver in 2018.
“It was a hard-fought race, it’s been a hard season, this more than normal and this is just an unbelievable moment.”
The English mixed 4x100m freestyle relay team – of Lewis Burras, double Olympic champion Tom Dean, Anna Hopkin and Freya Anderson – rounded off the night with silver behind Australia, with Canada taking bronze.
“I love the noise and that bit of pressure,” Anderson, who was fourth in the 200m freestyle final told the BBC. “I always swim better in relay than individuals and the crowd was amazing.”
Earlier in the evening Katie Shanahan of Scotland became the first European swimmer to claim a medal at Birmingham 2022 with bronze in the women’s 400m individual medley final, a race that saw Canadian Summer McIntosh claim gold by almost 25m.
There was also a podium finish for Scottish para swimmer Toni Shaw who claimed silver in the women’s S9 100m freestyle final behind legendary 11-time Paralympic champion Dame Sophie Pascoe.
Barry McClements made history for Northern Ireland with his S9 100m backstroke bronze the first-ever medal for the nation in the pool at a Commonwealth Games.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” he said. “You don’t get many opportunities to represent Northern Ireland and to get their first-ever medal is amazing.”
Victory went to Paralympic bronze medallists Timothy Hodge of Australia with New Zealand’s Jesse Reynolds taking silver.
Australia were the standout nation on the opening night of Birmingham 2022 winning five of the seven finals attaining podium sweeps in both the men’s 400m freestyle and women’s 200m freestyle events.
Day two of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will see England’s Adam Peaty compete at his first major event since claiming double gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The 27-year-old was forced to miss the World Championships in Budapest last month after breaking his foot earlier in the year. He will race in the 100m heats and be expected to return for the semi-finals on Saturday evening.
His next major competition will be the Roma 2022 LEN European Aquatics Championships from 11-21 August, an event he predicts will be “amazing” when it gets underway.