Monday, October 4, 2010

England's Halsall & Tancock win

Fran Halsall
Halsall was rewarded for her excellent reaction time at the start

Fran Halsall claimed England's first gold medal of the 2010 Commonwealth Games by just three hundredths of a second in the women's 50m butterfly.

Halsall won gold in a British record 26.24 seconds, ahead of Australian world champion Marieke Guehrer.

Fellow English swimmer Liam Tancock followed Halsall's success by cruising to men's 50m backstroke gold in a Games record time of 24.62 seconds.

Kate Haywood took bronze for England in the women's 50m breaststroke.

England's Stephanie Millward added another bronze in the Para sport 50m freestyle S9, won by South Africa's Natalie du Toit.

"It's a great start to the meet for us, a couple of golds," said the victorious Tancock, who holds the 50m backstroke world title.

"I had a text from Matt Clay, who won it four years ago in Melbourne, saying good luck - that was really nice and it's a special night.

"It felt pretty good but it didn't feel amazing. I gave it my best, though, and stroked on through to the win."

Despite his modesty about the performance, Tancock won by some distance, roaring into the lead and never facing much of a challenge from eventual silver medallist Hayden Stoeckel of Australia.

I enjoy being the underdog and when there are people better than me to take down, that's incentive to take it one step further

Fran Halsall

The Devon swimmer will compete again in the 100m backstroke event, later in the week.

Halsall helped herself to an excellent start in her 50m butterfly final, but only just held on for gold ahead of Australian duo Guehrer and Emily Seebohm.

The three swimmers on the podium were separated by just five hundredths of a second.

The 50m fly is not considered one of the Southport star's strongest events, and defeating both Guehrer and Seebohm is a surprise result for the 20-year-old.

Halsall said: "When I saw I'd won I thought, 'That was cheeky'.

"I enjoy being the underdog and when there are people better than me to take down, that's incentive to take it one step further.

"I changed my start a bit tonight, got up a bit earlier, got it right, did a good finish and it just happened."

"Fran doesn't get over-excited, she's very, very laidback," former men's 50m butterfly world champion Mark Foster told BBC Sport.

England's Ellen Gandy finished fifth in the final, ahead of Jemma Lowe of Wales in sixth.

Australia recorded a one-two in the women's 50m breaststroke final, Leiston Pickett winning in 30.84 ahead of Leisel Jones in 31.10, with Haywood a further seven hundredths of a second behind.

"I'm really, really chuffed. It's a bit of a bonus year, I wasn't expecting to do anything, so to do anything here is a bit shocking," said the 23-year-old.

Achieng Ajulu-Bushell finished fifth in the same final for England, with Scotland's Kathryn Johnstone seventh.

Scotland's Robbie Renwick heads home nation hopes in the men's 200m freestyle final at 1235 BST.

South Africa's Jean Basson qualified quickest with Renwick, the fastest man over the distance this year, in third with fellow Scot David Carry fourth.

Rob Bale and defending champion Ross Davenport of England also qualified.

In the Para sport 50m freestyle S9 it was Du Toit, who competed at the Beijing Olympics alongside able-bodied swimmers in the 10km open water event, who won gold in a time of 29.17 seconds.

But Millward did enough to seal a bronze medal behind Australia's Annabelle Williams.

"I expected more but that start was a little quick, nobody would have been ready for that," said Millward, from Wiltshire.

Geoff Huegill
Australia's Huegill has returned to swimming after retiring in 2004

Australia's Geoff Huegill, who won the Commonwealth men's 50m butterfly title in 2002 and is completing a return to the sport, progressed to the 50m fly final from Tuesday's semi-finals, as did England's Antony James.

Huegill, 31, retired after the 2004 Athens Olympics, but has lost around seven stone since coming out of retirement in 2008.

Brenton Rickard, Australia's 100m breaststroke world champion, looked strangely off the pace as he narrowly crept through his semi-final.

Rickard qualified seventh-fastest for the final, with Scottish duo Michael Jamieson and Kris Gilchrist through in fourth and sixth respectively, and Daniel Sliwinski of England rounding off the qualifiers in eighth.

England's world champion and world record holder Gemma Spofforth eased into Tuesday's semi-finals of the 100m backstroke along with Lizzie Simmonds.

Spofforth, who also beat Simmonds to the European title, looked comfortable in finishing second in her heat behind Georgia Davies of Wales.

England's Stephanie Proud and Northern Ireland pair Melanie Nocher and Chelsey Wilson are also in the last 16.

Halsall will also swim in the 100m freestyle semi-finals after qualifying fifth fastest in 55.580 seconds.

The European champion over the distance will be joined by England team-mates Amy Smith and Emma Saunders while Scotland's Caitlin McClatchey somewhat made up for missing out on the 200m freestyle final on Monday, by making the last 16.

Fellow Scot Sara Hamilton also qualified as did Wales' Georgia Holderness, who set a new national record of 57.510 seconds in the process.

Commonwealth Games swimmers

Holderness sets new Wales pool record

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