McKeon flirts with greatness
BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom (AFP) — Emma McKeon matched Australia’s all-time record of 10 Commonwealth gold medals while Scotland’s Duncan Scott avenged his Olympic freestyle defeat at the hands of his friend Tom Dean.
McKeon came to Birmingham with eight golds in two previous editions of the Games — two behind fellow Australian swimmers Ian Thorpe, Susie O’Neill and Leisel Jones.
Two relay golds at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre mean the 28-year-old swimmer, who won seven medals in last year’s Tokyo Olympics, is now level with her retired compatriots.
“It’s nice to do that 10th one in a relay,” she told Australia’s Channel 7.
“It’s kind of all a bit of a blur, I guess. It’s been over a long time. I mean my first one was 2014 and I was so young.”
“Looking back on who I was back then, I feel like I’ve come a long way and I’m really proud of what I’ve done but also proud of how I’ve grown as a person.”
McKeon missed out on an 11th gold when she finished 0.02 second behind Olympic champion Margaret Mac Neil in the 100m butterfly with the Canadian setting a new Games record of 56.36 seconds.
But she will have other chances in Birmingham to win an 11th gold.
Scott beat England’s Dean in a thrilling men’s 200m freestyle duel, pulling away from the Olympic champion in the final 50m to win in a time of 1min 45.02 seconds.
The 25-year-old, who won silver behind Dean at the Tokyo Games, was forced to withdraw from last month’s World Championships in Budapest following a bout of Covid-19 but managed to turn the tables on his friend.
He returned to the pool to take bronze in the 400m individual medley behind New Zealand gold medalist Lewis Clareburt, who won in a time of four minutes and 8.70 seconds.
Scott, who said it had been a “tough” double, added that he and Dean, who usually compete together for Britain, relished their rivalry.
“It’s a really positive thing,” he said.
“It’s a nice change being on different sides of the table this time. Scotland vs England. It’s always positive.”
England’s Benjamin Proud won the 50m butterfly in 22.81 seconds.
The 2014 champion, who was disqualified from the final at the 2018 Gold Coast games after he was deemed to have started early, said he felt unexpectedly emotional.
“Eight years ago, I walked into this competition and took gold,” said the world 50m freestyle champion.
“Four years ago, I felt that was taken away from me. I said to myself I would be here four years later and that’s what’s happened.”
South Africa’s Lara van Niekerk won the women’s 50m freestyle in 29.73 seconds and compatriot Pieter Coetze triumphed in the men’s 100m backstroke final in a time of 53.78 seconds.
Australia, with McKeon on the last leg, won the women’s 4x100m freestyle and rounded off the night in style by winning the men’s event.
England star Adam Peaty dominated his semi-final to qualify quickest for Sunday’s 100m breaststroke final.
The world record-holder was forced to miss the world championships with a foot injury.
He posted a time of 59.02 seconds in the semifinal, nearly a second faster than his swim in the morning heats.
Peaty said he was “fighting” his way back after his injury.
“Maybe that takes another year, it takes another two,” he said.
“Paris (2024 Olympic Games) is always the goal and that is the pinnacle of the sport as we all know.”
Olympic women’s 100m backstroke champion Kaylee McKeown recorded the second-fastest time in qualifying for Sunday’s final behind Canada’s Kylie Masse.
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