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Aug 3 22

‘I have a bit to prove’: Southam wants in on teenage wave sweeping swimming

by ZwemZa

Flynn Southam celebrates Australia’s gold in the men’s 4x100m relay final.Credit:Getty Images

Flynn Southam wants in on the teenage wave that is already washing over world swimming just a year after the world order seemed chiselled in stone at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The 17-year-old sprint freestyler is making his international debut at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham having already carved a swathe through the junior ranks of the sport, including taking down an age record set by Kyle Chalmers back in 2015.

Normally, it would be prudent to keep the hype to a minimum as young athletes make their way through the sport. But swimming is already in the midst of a teenage dream in which a 15-year-old, 17-year-old and an 18-year-old stormed to multiple crowns at the recent FINA World Championships in Budapest.

Summer McIntosh (15) turned her global success into 400-metre individual medley gold on night one of the meet in Birmingham and Mollie O’Callaghan, the Australian 18-year-old 100m freestyle world champion, almost sprung a huge upset when she was touched out in the 200m by Ariarne Titmus.

And Southam’s friend David Popovici, from Romania, set the pool on fire in Budapest when he took the 100m-200m double. Southam has had to bide his time, but he’s eager to make his presence felt sooner rather than later.

“I have a bit to prove,” Southam said. “Those guys have had Youth Olympics, junior worlds. This is my first international meet, I didn’t get to go to any junior stuff due to COVID. They have some experience on me but give me a couple of years at Paris and I’ll be matching it with those guys.”

Southam doesn’t lack confidence and already has the kind of swagger that will help him fit in perfectly in the sprint set. But his first swim in Birmingham was a nervous relay lead (49.21) that showed his lack of exposure to this level of competition.

“I was just overthinking it. It was just the mental aspect and that showed out in the way I swam, really aggressive, not overly technical,” he said.

It stung, but he managed to channel his frustration in the right way. When he woke up the next day, he blasted a mid-48s relay split to power the Australian 4x100m freestyle quartet into the final as the quickest seed.

“It got me fired up. My mixed relay lead wasn’t the greatest time I’ve ever done. It was my first race here, massive crowd, I’m only 17, so it’s also an experience whether the results are good or bad,” Southam said.

“But I just trusted myself and my ability. Good times. With a disappointing time like that, you can’t get too down about it, which I was a bit. But I woke up determined to get our team the fastest seed into the final. Hopefully we can go on and kick some butt.”

Southam’s fresh arrival on the scene and the glut of talent in Australian swimming has allowed him to enjoy a luxuriously low profile. But that won’t last once he begins to strip time off his personal bests and start to set his sights on Chalmers, the 2016 Olympic champion and Tokyo silver medallist.

For all the depth in the women’s sprinting stocks, the Australian men’s remains thin, with Chalmers out on his own ahead of a group of swimmers who are well off the kind of times that would put them in and around an Olympic final.

Southam has a personal best of 48.60 but already Popovici, at the same age, has a blistering 47.13 on the books. But Olympic medals aren’t handed out between Games’ cycles, so time is on his side as he tries to join the rush for medals in Paris in 2024.

By Phil Lutton | The Sydney Morning Herald

Aug 3 22

Peaty says sorry after backlash over ‘arrogant’ interview at Commonwealth Games

by ZwemZa

Adam Peaty speaking on the BBC. (Source: Supplied)

English swimming goliath Adam Peaty has apologised over an “arrogant” interview that followed his incredible collapse at the Commonwealth Games on Monday.

Peaty’s defeat in the event he has owned for 10 years left Aussie legend Ian Thorpe staggered. It was a result almost nobody saw coming.

The world record holder had been undefeated in the 100m breaststroke at major meets since 2014. He had qualified fastest for the final and led the event with 25m to go. However, English teammate James Wilby pushed ahead of him to take the gold.

The magnitude of the boilover was written all over Wilby’s stunned face as he looked up to the big screen to see that he had won. With Aussies Zac Stubblety-Cook and Sam Williamson exploding at the death, Peaty suddenly went from the gold medal position to missing out on the podium completely.

It has been an explosive fall-out to the result with the 27-year-old declaring he won’t be coming back to the Commonwealth Games in four years’ time. It followed a social media backlash over comments that have been branded “arrogant” by fans.

Peaty spoke to the BBC on the pooldeck after finishing outside the medals and said losing in the Commonwealth Games meant little to him after already scooping up three Olympic gold medals.

“It doesn’t feel amazing, but it doesn’t feel bad either,” Peaty said.

“It’ll probably be my last attempt tomorrow, but I’m not bothered about it. The Commonwealths to me, in the grand scheme of things… it’s about two years time (the Olympics).

“That’s no disrespect. I’m still four weeks into my program, I can’t put that expectation on myself.”

Retired English swimmer Mark Foster responded to Peaty’s comments, saying: “I think he’s trying to say it doesn’t matter, but it does matter.

“It’s the Commonwealth Games, it’s a multi-sport event and I think when he was growing up, the Commonwealth Games would have been a big deal.

“But the fact that he’s won lots of Worlds and Olympic Games, maybe he’s trying to play it down to himself that it doesn’t matter.”

The Birmingham Mail reported fans on social media said Peaty’s comments were “arrogant” and “disrespectful”.

“Adam peaty is disrespectful to every other athlete at the Commonwealth Games Acting like he doesn’t care While all the other athletes are trying they best to win medals,” one Twitter user wrote.

Another posted: “Adam Peaty, I think you need to take a deep breath, have a word with yourself and take a look at the para swimmers. Used to really respect you and what you were trying to achieve but feel let down by tonight’s comments.”

World record-holder Peaty qualified second-fastest for the 50m breaststroke final, scheduled for Wednesday morning, behind Australia’s Sam Williamson.

After moving through to the final, Peaty appeared to apologise for his comments.

He wrote on Twitter: “Thankful for all the supportful messages I’m getting at the moment. It has been an incredibly hard time the past few months, but mostly the last few days.

“Sometimes in the heat of the moment my emotions better me and I can’t speak with a clear mind.

“These championships mean a lot to me being a home games but I have to think bigger picture to keep my spirits high. It really, really isn’t easy. My last Commonwealth Games race will be tomorrow.”

Peaty said he simply hasn’t had the time to return to his best shape as a result of a lengthy rehabilitation from several foot injuries. He said he didn’t have the aerobic fitness to challenge for the 100m breaststroke and even said he needs to lose 4kg before competing at the Olympics in Paris in 2024.

He said he has a long way to go before Paris.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Peaty said.

“I don’t see the point in doing something I wouldn’t do that well at, at the moment. We’ll see.

“I don’t know what went wrong. With 25m to go I had nothing in the tank. Maybe that’s overexposure on the foot. Sometimes you just have a bad race, I can’t pinpoint where I went wrong. There’s a lot of debriefing to do. I need a full reset now.

“It was a slow final, I can’t remember the last time I went that slow. It just didn’t go right. Of course, I’m disappointed, but that’s what makes you go faster next time.

“I’ve kind of lost that spark, whether it’s with my foot, but I’ll be looking to find that over the next months and into the next two years.”

By Tyson Otto | News.com.au

Aug 2 22

Gold, silver for SA as sensational Van Niekerk powers to victory over Schoenmaker

by ZwemZa

Lara van Niekerk reacts (News24)

Teen sensation Lara van Niekerk claimed her second Commonwealth Games gold for South Africa as she produced a stunning and powering win in the women’s 100m breaststroke final on Tuesday evening.

Swimming in lane 4, Van Niekerk powered to the lead and kept her consistency despite a slight charge by fellow South African and 200m gold medallist Tatjana Schoenmaker.

However, the 19-year-old stopped the clock in 1:05.47 to comfortably seal South Africa’s sixth gold in the Commonwealth Games.

Schoenmaker, who was in lane 5, turned second and tried to catch up with Van Niekerk but had settle for SA as she touched the wall in 1:06.68.

Rounding up the podium was Australian Chelsea Hodges in bronze (1:07.05).

Meanwhile, bronze 200m medallist Kaylene Corbett finished seventh in 1:07.62 in the final.

Pieter Coetze clawed his way back and surged to snatch bronze in the men’s 200m backstroke final in Birmingham on Tuesday.

Coetze was sixth in the last 50m turn and swam the fastest lap as he claimed third in 1:56.77.

England’s Brodie Williams won gold in 1:56.40 and Australian Bradley Woodward took silver in 1:56.41.

This is Pieter’s third Commonwealth Games medal in Birmingham after his gold in the 100m and silver in the 50m backstroke.

Chad le Clos finished fourth in the men’s 100m butterfly final on Tuesday evening to end his Commonwealth Games.

Swimming in lane 5, Le Clos tried to push through but couldn’t fight a strong challenge as the South African touched the wall in 51.61.

Canada’s Joshua Edwards won gold in 51.24, Englishman James Guy claimed silver (51.40) and Australia’s Matthew Temple rounded up the podium (51.40).

Le Clos, who won silver in the 200m butterfly, still remains the most active decorated Commonwealth Games medallist with his 18 medals.

Michael Houlie narrowly missed out on a Commonwealth podium finish as he finished fourth in the men’s 50m breaststroke final on Tuesday evening.

Swimming in lane 3, Houlie had a quick reaction time and was in with a shout as he tried to keep up with the South African touching the wall in 27.36 – 0.04 milli-seconds behind bronze medallist Ross Murdoch of Scotland (27.32).

But it was Olympic world champion Adam Peaty, who delighted the home fans, as he stormed to gold in 26.76 with Australia’s Sam Williamson taking silver (26.97).

South Africa nearly picked up a medal in the mixed 4x100m medley relay with Pieter Coetze, Lara van Niekerk, Chad le Clos and Aimee Canny competing.

South Africa were in podium place throughout from the start but in the final 50m, slipped to fourth to touch the wall in 3:44.38.

Australia took gold in 3:41.30, Canada sealed silver 3:43.98 with England snatching bronze (3:44.03).

Team SA swimmers help push the country’s medal tally to 16 on day 5 of the Commonwealth Games on Tuesday after an eventful evening at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre.

Aug 2 22

SA swimmers continue to shine in the Commonwealth Games pool

by ZwemZa

Erin Gallagher of South Africa won the silver medal in the Women’s 50m Butterfly during at the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Picture: @SouthAfricanSportsImages

South Africa’s swimmers added three more medals to the rapidly increasing Team SA haul at the Commonwealth Games on Monday.

Pieter Coetzé claimed his second medal of the Games, adding the 50m backstroke silver to his 100m backstroke gold, while Erin Gallagher claimed silver in the 50m butterfly and Para-swimmer Christian Sadie bronze in the S7 50m freestyle.

The biggest smile of the night belonged to Gallagher who outgunned Olympic 100m butterfly champion Maggie MacNeil to earn joint silver with Australia’s Holly Barratt in a new national record time of 26.05. Australian Emma McKeon took the gold in 25.90.

“I could not be happier with that swim,” said a thrilled Gallagher afterwards. “I think the last few metres my eyes were closed. I can’t even remember the race to be honest. I put my head down and hoped for the best and I took a while to turn around and look at the time because I was nervous but when I saw the two there, I couldn’t believe it. I was so shocked.”

Coetzé was not quite as happy with his silver, after being out-touched by New Zealand’s Andrew Jeffcoat in the 50m backstroke. The Kiwi took the gold in 24.65 with Coetzé just .12 of a second behind.

“I’m a little bit disappointed but I’m still happy to get the medal and it’s always fun to race – especially with the crowd and everything.

“It was very close, it would have been nice to get the touch but that happens.”

While Sadie wasn’t particularly happy with his S7 50m freestyle race, he was please to claim a medal at his second consecutive Games after taking silver four years ago. It was Australia’s Matt Levy who claimed gold in 28.95, Singapore’s Wei Soong Toh the silver in 29.10, while Sadie finished in 29.78.

“I’m really chuffed to be on the podium. It was really nice racing with the guys. I think it’s the same podium as last time. The swim wasn’t as great as I wanted it to be but I’m happy,” he said afterwards.

Rebecca Meder was thrilled with her fourth place in the 200m individual medley in a new national record time of 2:12.01, taking over half a second off the previous mark which belonged to Kathryn Meaklim and had stood since 2009.

“I didn’t really think about the record while I was racing, I just swam my own race,” said Meder, who turned 20 on Sunday. “A bronze would have been amazing, but I came in ranked 10th or 11th and I just finished fourth at the Commonwealth Games. I’m so happy with that time.”

Meanwhile, earlier in the evening, Chad le Clos looked in fine form as he won his 100m butterfly semifinal in 51.64 to progress to Tuesday’s final second quickest.

“I’m over the moon, I’ve got a great lane draw, right next to the fastest guy Matt [Temple] – he’s going to be a big threat tomorrow night… Another medal would be great, but you know what I want,” he said referring to the gold medal.

Also safely through to his final was Michael Houlie who had to come from a way back to finish second in his 50m breaststroke semifinal and make his way through third fastest with a time of 27.39.

“It was fun. After this morning’s swim where I executed my race plan and strategy really well, I just tried to cut out everything, social media and stayed off my phone and stay relaxed and keep my mind calm so I was ready to get the job done which was to get in the final and get a good lane,” he said afterwards.

Tatjana Schoenmaker was back in the pool following her gold medal-winning performance in the 200m breaststroke – this time in the 100m event. She won her semifinal in 1:06.43 while compatriot and 200m breaststroke bronze medallist Kaylene Corbett finished fourth in 1:07.96 to also progress to the final.

“I just enjoyed myself out there tonight… It’s not the fastest time but I was very happy,” said Schoenmaker.

Meanwhile, it was teammate Lara van Niekerk who recorded the fastest time of the night, easily winning the other semifinal in 1:05.96, making sure there will once again be three South Africans in a breaststroke final at these Games.

“It’s only the second time I’ve gone 1:05 so I’m super-happy about that… I felt really comfortable. I have the morning off tomorrow so hopefully I can shave a bit more time off in the final,” she said.

Aimee Canny was the other South African to progress to her final. She finished third in her 100m freestyle semifinal in 54.78 to qualify sixth quickest.

“I did what I needed to do. I’m in the final and it’s on my PB so I’m very happy with that,” she said. “The first 25 I worked harder than I did this morning and then I tried to ease off a little bit so I had the legs in the last 25 so I was very happy.”

The final event of the evening saw the South African 4x200m freestyle relay team of Matt Sates, Le Clos, Andrew Ross and Coetzé finishing sixth in 7:13.76.

Swimming South Africa

Aug 1 22

South African swimming contingent produces a number of stellar performances in Birmingham on Monday evening

by ZwemZa

Lara van Niekerk © Gallo Images

The South African swimming contingent produced a number of stellar performances at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham on Monday evening, garnering a number of podium places and setting up what looks like to be an exciting evenings racing of Tuesday/

Lara van Niekerk, Tatjana Schoenmaker and Kaylene Corbett have qualified for the women’s 100m breaststroke final at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham on Monday.

Schoenmaker won her semi-final as she stopped the clock in 1:06.43, while Corbett finished fourth in 1:07.96 to advance through to the final.

Meanwhile, teen star Niekerk won her semi-final in 1:05.96 to finish as the fastest qualifier heading into Tuesday’s massive showdown final.

Pieter Coetze claimed his second Commonwealth Games medal in Birmingham as he took silver in the men’s 50m backstroke final on Monday.

Swimming in lane 4, Coetze touched the wall in 24.77 – 0.22 seconds behind Australia’s Andrew Jeffcoat, who won gold in 24.55.

The 18-year-old won his second medal of the tournament after his gold medal in the 100m breaststroke this past weekend.

Shortly afterwards, South Africa’s Erin Gallagher captured silver in the women’s 50m butterfly final.

Gallagher swam a personal best as she touched the wall in 26.05, with Australia’s Emma McKeon taking gold in 25.90.

Christian Sadie finished third in the men’s 50m freestyle S7 final at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Sadie, who was the country’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony, dominated the first 25m, faded towards the end, but pushed through to seal bronze for South Africa in 29.78.

Australia’s Matthew Levy clinched gold in 28.95 and Singapore’s Wei Soong Toh took silver in 29.10.

Rebecca Meder finished fourth in the women’s 200m individual medley final in Birmingham.

Meder touched the wall in 2:12.01 as Canadian Summer McIntosh took gold (2:08.70), Australia’s Kaylee McKeown with silver (2:09.52) and England’s Abbie Wood (2:10.68).

Chad le Clos has stormed to win his 100m butterfly semi-final and has a shout to make history in his final individual race of the Commonwealth Games.

Swimming in lane two, Le Clos dominated from turn to finish and slowed down towards the end to touch the wall in first place in 51.64.

Le Clos finished as second fastest ahead of Tuesday’s final.

Le Clos, who won silver in the 200m butterfly, is tied as the most decorated athlete in Commonwealth Games history and needs one more medal to be the most decorated Commonwealth medal-winner of all time.

Aimee Canny finished third in the women’s 100m freestyle semi-final at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Canny touched the wall in 54.78 and finished as the sixth fastest overall ahead of Tuesday’s final.

Fellow South African Emma Chelius finished sixth in the other semi-final with a time of 55.80 and did not progress to the final.

Michael Houlie finished second in the 50m breaststroke semi-final, touching the wall in 27.39 – behind Australia’s Sam Williamson (27.01).

Houlie finished as third fastest ahead of Tuesday’s final, which includes English star Adam Peaty.

Meanwhile, compatriot Brenden Crawford finished fifth in the same semi-final in 24.75 and did not qualify for the final.

Aug 1 22

Record-setting South African swimmer Chad le Clos driven to ‘get back on top’ after trauma

by ZwemZa

Chad le Clos has 18 medals at the Commonwealth Games, putting him level with shooters Michael Gault and Phil Adams

Swimming superstar Chad le Clos says his mental health was “thrown into a lively state” prior to a history-making comeback at the Commonwealth Games.

South Africa’s most successful Olympian became the joint most-decorated Commonwealth Games athlete of all time after collecting a record-equalling 18th medal on Sunday.

Le Clos’ latest podium placing – a silver in the 200m butterfly – was his first in international competition since experiencing a personal trauma 18 months ago.

The 30-year-old will not disclose the nature of the incident but Le Clos wants others to know the value of seeking professional support.

“It took me about seven or eight months to speak to somebody and I think that was a bit too late [as] it took a while for me to get back to normal,” he told BBC Sport Africa.

“Certain things affect people in different ways and you have to be strong to seek some help and talk to someone.”

Le Clos experienced his trauma in January 2021, six months prior to the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

“The Games were nothing for me – they felt like nothing for me. I don’t count that as an Olympics for me,” he said.

Le Clos ‘in good spirits’ now

Several iconic swimmers have spoken of their mental health challenges in recent years, with Australian Ian Thorpe discussing a diagnosis of depression and American Michael Phelps sharing how he manages anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

“My experience was a bit different but, yeah, there’s a lot of things that happen outside the pool,” Le Clos said.

“I had some troubles, I was in a pretty dark place. This was something that happened last year and threw me into a bit of a lively state. I wish I could take back the last two years.

“I was very lucky to have a great sports psychologist to help me get through a lot of things and of course my family were there.

“It’s been a very hard year and a half, but I’m good now, I’m in good spirits. I’m happy, healthy and mentally I’m good. All the guys out there: just get help if you need it, don’t feel ashamed.”

Le Clos insists his only focus now is winning races again after New Zealand’s Lewis Clareburt narrowly edged gold in Sunday’s 200m butterfly final at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre in Birmingham.

“It hurts,” he said.

“I thought I had enough in me to fight through to the end but the atmosphere in there was phenomenal and I knew someone was coming back at me, I just didn’t know who.

“Today (Sunday) was the 10-year anniversary of me beating Phelps at London 2012 so it’s a bittersweet moment but I’ll be back. Getting back on top is all I care about now.”

Le Clos made his Commonwealth Games debut in Delhi in 2010 and now has seven gold medals, four silvers and seven bronzes.

By Barney Cullum | BBC Sport

Aug 1 22

Three more medals for Team SA in Birmingham pool

by ZwemZa

(supplied)

South African swimmers added a full complement of medals to Team South Africa’s collection at the Commonwealth in Birmingham on Sunday night.

Olympic champion and world record holder Tatjana Schoenmaker made sure the gold was never in doubt in the 200m breaststroke, the defending champion leading from start to finish to win in a time of 2:21.92.

Claiming the bronze medal in the same race was Schoenmaker’s Tuks teammate and friend Kaylene Corbett, who produced a great final 50m to finish in a time of 2:23.67, with Australia’s Jenna Strauch taking the silver in 2:23.65.

“It’s obviously amazing,” said a thrilled Schoenmaker afterwards. “Four years ago Kaylene was standing in the crowd and she’s always crying for me so for me it was the happiest moment. I really didn’t care what my result was – I was so happy for her to win her first international medal and then the blessing is to share that podium. We’re so proud to wear the green and gold but being able to sing that anthem together, we just felt united with our country in that moment,” she added.

An equally emotional Corbett said: “We’ve fought for women’s sport since 2016 when none of the South African girls made the Olympic team but we’ll keep fighting until we’re done swimming so this is definitely a step in the right direction having two girls on the podium in comparison to 2018 when she was on the podium and I was crying in the stands so I must say, it’s nice to cry on the podium than next to the pool.”

Also making a trip to the podium was Chad le Clos, who was looking to make it four consecutive golds in the 200m butterfly at the Commonwealth Games but was just out-touched by New Zealand’s Lewis Clareburt – Le Clos taking silver in 1:55.89 and Clareburt the gold in 1:55.60.

“I’m gutted not to have won, I’ll be honest with you,” said Le Clos, who won his Olympic gold in the same event exactly 10 years ago to the day. “I was stinging in the last 50m. But fair play to Lewis, he broke the national record this morning and again tonight – he had a great race. It is what it is.

“I’ll take the medal for sure, but I wanted the gold. That’s what I was planning on coming to do.”

In winning the silver Le Clos nevertheless equalled the record for the most medals won by any athlete in Commonwealth Games history – taking his overall haul to 18.

In the other finals of the evening, Emma Chelius finished just out of the medals in fourth (24.78) and Erin Gallagher eighth (25.39) in the 50m freestyle.

“It was an incredible experience, I loved having Erin in the lane right next to me… It’s a season’s best so I’m really happy with that. I’m just so grateful to have had that experience and I’m definitely going to keep learning and building on it every time I race so I can put it into practice for future races,” said Chelius.

Rebecca Meder celebrated her 20th birthday with a seventh-place finish in the 100m backstroke in 1:02.06.

“I think I was ranked 15th so to finish seventh is amazing… it’s been a great night of racing for South Africa as a whole,” she said.

“That was my first big senior international final, so I enjoyed every moment and soaked it all up and I’m so excited for tomorrow.”

Brenden Crawford finished eighth in the men’s 100m breaststroke final in 1:01.98, while Christian Sadie finished fifth in the SB8 100m breaststroke in 1:22.14.

“It was good. It’s not the race I’m focusing on – tomorrow’s the big one but it was really nice being here racing, the crowd was amazing and it’s been a privilege to be able to go out twice which not many of the Para athletes get to do so I’m really honoured to be here.”

Having already collected gold in the 100m backstroke on Saturday, teenager Pieter Coetzé continued his winning form in the semifinal of the 50m backstroke. He won in 24.81 to go through to Monday’s final as the fastest qualifier.

“It’s amazing, I’m very happy with that. Last night was a late night – the sessions are quite late in the evening so I’m glad to get it done now so I can go and rest. And today I just wanted to make the final, so job done.”

Also making her way safely through the semifinals was Gallagher who powered to a national record time of 26.17 in the 50m butterfly to finish second in her semi to qualify second fastest for Monday’s final.

“I think I was quite relaxed and that always helps. I was just very excited to race and I think that’s something that I’ve lost over the years so I’m slowly getting it back,” said Gallagher afterwards. “I think my goal for tomorrow is just to have fun and if I break 26 seconds, that would be a cherry on top but I’m so excited to be racing again and we’ll see what happens in the final.”

Gallagher was back in the pool for the 4x200m freestyle relay final with Team SA teammates Aimee Canny, Dune Coetzee and Michaela Pulford, who finished in fourth place in 8:02.25. The race was won in world record time by Australia in a sensationally quick 7:39.29.

By Karien Jonckheere for Swimming South Africa

Aug 1 22

McKeon and Le Clos make history in Birmingham pool

by ZwemZa

Commonwealth Games – Men’s 200m Butterfly – Medal Ceremony – Sandwell Aquatics Centre, Birmingham, Britain – July 31, 2022 Silver medallist South Africa’s Chad Le Clos celebrates on the podium during the medal ceremony REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

Swimmer Emma McKeon became the most successful Commonwealth Games athlete of all-time on Sunday, leading an Australian sweep of the women’s 50 metre freestyle to claim a record 11th gold medal.

It was a night of milestones at the Sandwell Aquatic Centre as moments earlier South African Chad Le Clos had joined shooters Michael Gault and Phil Adams as the most decorated Games athletes ever when he snatched his 18th medal by picking up a silver in the men’s 200 metres butterfly.

Australia then ended the evening with a bang, powering to gold in the women’s 4x200m relay in a world record time of seven minutes, 39.29 seconds, smashing the old mark of 7:40.33 set by China at the Tokyo Olympics.

Madison Wilson, Kiah Melverton Mollie O’Callaghan and Ariarne Titmus, with a brilliant anchor leg, came home a massive 12.69 seconds clear of Canada, who finished a distant second to take silver while England completed the podium.

McKeon’s 50m freestyle win follows earlier victories in the mixed 4×100 freestyle and women’s 4×100 freestyle relays to sit alone atop the gold medal table ahead of fellow Australian swimmers Susie O’Neill, Ian Thorpe and Leisel Jones.

McKeon, winner of seven medals at last year’s Tokyo Olympics, was able to share the landmark moment with Meg Harris and Shayna Jack who joined her on the podium taking silver and bronze respectively.

Commonwealth Games – Women’s 50m Freestyle – Medal Ceremony – Sandwell Aquatics Centre, Birmingham, Britain – July 31, 2022 Gold Medallist Australia’s Emma McKeon celebrates on the podium during the medal ceremony REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

“It is special,” said McKeon. “It makes me reflect on the last eight years since my first Commonwealth Games and I can see how far I’ve come as a person and an athlete.”

Le Clos’s milestone comes 10 years to the day since he beat American great Michael Phelps in the same event at the 2012 London Olympics.

Swimming out of lane five, the same lane he beat Phelps from, Le Clos was beaten to the wall by Lewis Clareburt with a winning time of one minute, 55.60 seconds.

However, he could not be denied a place in the record books after finishing just 0.29 seconds back of the New Zealander to snatch silver ahead of England’s James Guy.

“I’m gutted not to have won, I’ll be honest,” said Le Clos, adding he plans to be top the podium before the end of the Games. “I would’ve cut my finger off to win tonight.

“It meant everything to me and my family – everyone’s in the stands, my friends flew out for this race.

“Fair play to Lewis, he had a great race.

“He said he watched me growing up and I said, ‘man, did you have to do it on my day?

“Could you not have given me one more time?”

A three-time Commonwealth Games champion in the event, Le Clos looked like he might make it four leading with 50m to go but the 30-year-old would be overhauled down the stretch by Lewis, who adds the 200m butterfly title to the 400m individual medley gold he won earlier at the Sandwell Aquatic Centre.

Le Clos’s medal haul from four Commonwealth Games includes seven gold, four silver and seven bronze.

His trophy case also contains four Olympic (one gold, three silver) and seven world championship medals (four gold, one silver, two bronze).

Reuters

Aug 1 22

Little mermaid now the giant of swimming

by ZwemZa

Emma McKeon with her amazing haul of medals from the Tokyo Olympics.Credit:Getty

Emma McKeon was twice a fish out of water.

Aged 18, she pondered quitting after not making Australia’s swim team for the 2012 London Olympics.

Aged 27, McKeon considered retiring after last year’s Tokyo Olympics.

She had just won seven medals – four gold, three bronze in Tokyo. No female athlete has won more medals at a single Olympics.

And no Australian has won more Olympic medals than McKeon’s career haul of five golds, two silver, four bronze.

But McKeon was uncertain whether she could commit to striving for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

After three months out of the water, she again took the plunge.

Now McKeon, by measure of gold medals, is the most successful athlete in Commonwealth Games history – 11 golds.

Australia’s Ian Thorpe, Susie O’Neill and Leisel Jones are next-best with 10 golds each.

Not that such achievements resonate deeply with the introverted swimmer.

“I haven’t done the maths,” McKeon told reporters in Birmingham before creating the fresh high-water mark.

“I don’t read the news that you guys write.

“I’m not looking at medal tallies … I’m not setting out to break any of that. Just do my best and see what I’m capable of.”

Her capabilities in the water surfaced early.

The Wollongong-born McKeon is the daughter of elite swimmers who competed for Australia.

They also owned a swimming school.

So McKeon’s childhood was largely spent in the pool with her father dubbing her ‘little mermaid’.

Her father Ron is a dual Olympian who also won four Commonwealth gold medals.

Her mother Susie, nee Woodhouse, swam at the ’82 Commonwealth Games, where she and Ron fell in love.

McKeon’s Uncle Rob – Rob Woodhouse – is a two-time Olympian and three-time Commonwealth Games silver medallist.

And her brother David is a dual Olympian who also won two gold and a silver medal at Commonwealth Games.

Emma and David’s love of the water flowed from playing as their parents worked at their swimming school.

“Me, my brother and sister would always just be playing in the pool while they were working,” McKeon has said.

But as she got older, the fun of swimming morphed into seriousness for McKeon. And things overflowed when missing selection for the 2012 Olympics.

“As I got a bit older I started to put a bit too much pressure on myself and lost my enjoyment for it pretty quickly,” she said.

She contemplated quitting the sport. But didn’t.

And the following year, 2013, McKeon won three silver medals at the world titles – all in relays.

In 2014, McKeon decided to leave her close-knit family in Wollongong to join esteemed coach Michael Bohl’s program in Queensland.

That same year, she won her first gold at an international meet – the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, where she also collected three other golds in relays.

In 2016, McKeon departed the Rio Olympics as Australia’s most successful athlete with one gold, two silver and a bronze.

All but the bronze were in relays. The theme was: brilliant relay swimmer, undoubtedly good but not yet great individual swimmer.

In fact, after the 2019 world championships, McKeon had a collection of 17 medals from the worlds. But only two silvers and a bronze weren’t in relays.

The lack of individual gold wasn’t a burden, but a bugbear.

“I never started to wonder or lose belief of anything like that,” McKeon said.

The theme was also evidenced at Commonwealth Games.

In 2014 in Glasgow, McKeon claimed four gold and two bronze. Only one gold and the bronze pair were individual events.

In 2018, she also won four gold and two bronze. Yet again, only one gold and the pair of bronze were from individual swims.

Then, aged 27, came her breakout meet at last year’s Tokyo Olympics. Much of it stemmed from Bohl changing her training program.

“She is a very light athlete,” Bohl said of McKeon, who weighs 67 kilograms dripping wet.

“But the power to weight ratio is pretty good.”

More strength work in the gym; less swimming and focus on a technique that was already near perfect.

“She has got very clean technique,” Australia’s head swimming coach Rohan Taylor said.

“When you watch her swim, great swimmers move themselves through the water very efficiently.”

The little mermaid had become a swimming giant.

Aug 1 22

Adam Peaty in historic loss in 100m breaststroke at Commonwealth Games

by ZwemZa

Adam Peaty’s unbeaten streak ended in the 100m breaststroke final. Photograph: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

For eight extraordinary years, Adam Peaty has been swimming’s Mr Invincible: unbeatable and impregnable, chasing records and leaving others gulping in his slipstream. Yet on a wild and discombobulating night in Birmingham he suffered surely the biggest shock in Commonwealth Games history as he finished fourth in the men’s 100m breaststroke final.

Fourth! This was swimming’s equivalent of Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson. Of the US soccer team defeating England in the 1950 World Cup. A moment when everything we thought we knew about a sport was picked up and spun discordantly off its axis.

It was mighty close – with England’s James Wilby taking gold in 59.25, ahead of Australia’s Zac Stubblety-Cook (59.52) and Sam Williamson (59.82). Peaty, meanwhile, came home in 59.86 – three seconds outside his world record.

True, Peaty had arrived at Birmingham looking dangerously undercooked following a fractured foot in May that left him in a boot and behind schedule. Yet after victories in his heat and semi-final here, no one expected this. Not when Petty had never lost a 100m race in his senior career.

“It took a broken foot to get it away from me,” said Peaty. “But I chose to fight.”

He did. And he went out valiantly on his shield.

Initially everything looked to be going to script as Peaty led at 20 metres and began his familiar surge at 30. But this time there was no muscular separation from the pack. At the turn the 27-year-old still led, but only by 0.13 sec, and his pursuers sensed blood.

Peaty, so long swimming’s ultimate Alpha male, tried to hold them off but with 25m remaining he began to be swallowed up. First Wilby passed him. Then Stubblety-Cook. Before, right at the finish, Williamson ripped the bronze away from him too.

“I felt really good to 50m,” admitted Peaty. “I just don’t know what went wrong. With 25m to go I had nothing in the tank. I felt good, but it’s two seconds slower than the Olympics. There’s something obviously gone majorly wrong in that cycle.”

Intriguingly Peaty also talked of a ‘major reset,’ before adding: “There’s obviously a lot going wrong in my training programme. But sometimes when you don’t race all season it bites you when it matters.”

This was his first 100m breaststroke defeat since moving to the senior ranks in 2014, during which time he has hoovered up three Olympic gold, eight world titles and nearly two dozen European and Commonwealth medals.

For good measure he also holds all of the top 20 times in history – with no one else breaking 58 seconds and has also shattered 14 world records to boot. Yet none of that mattered on this crazy night in Birmingham.

“It was a very slow final for me,” said Peaty, who will now go again in the heats of the 50m on Monday. “I can’t even remember when I went that slow. Of course it’s a shock. Of course it’s disappointing but that’s where you have those moments to go faster next time.”

Wilby, meanwhile, rightfully revelled in his stunning upset. “I’m overwhelmed and amazed,” he said. “I’ve always chased him. He’s a phenomenal athlete and he’ll probably kick me in the arse later in the calendar. But I’m proud of that.” And so he should be.

Meanwhile there was more success for England in the S8 100m backstroke as Alice Tai took gold in 1:13.64, six months after having her right leg amputated below the knee due to a worsening of her clubfoot.

There was also a bronze for England in the 4x200m freestyle relay behind Australia who stormed to gold with a new world record time of 7:39.29 and Canada, who took silver.

Earlier in the evening the South African Chad Le Clos broke the record for most Commonwealth Games medals – 18 – as he took silver in a thrilling men’s 200m butterfly.

The 30-year-old was leading until the final 20 metres when he was overtaken by Lewis Clareburt who came through to win in 1:55.60. England’s James Guy took bronze.

However Clos, who has won his 18 medals across three Commonwealth Games, was not too disappointed. “We both knew what each other would do but fair play to Lewis,” he said. “It is always kill or be killed when I race.”

By Sean Ingle | The Guardian

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