Elijah Winnington
Elijah Winnington was one of many Australian swimming gold medallists on day one. Image by Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS
  • swimming

Aussies dominate in the pool

July 30, 2022

Australia’s swimmers have greedily grabbed a fistful of gold on the opening night at Birmingham’s Commonwealth Games pool.

Australians collected five of the seven swimming gold medals on offer on Friday night.

The nation’s pool haul also features three silver and three bronze medals.

Elijah Winnington saluted in the first swim final of the Games, the men’s 400m freestyle.

And Australia’s 4x100m mixed freestyle relay team – Emma McKeon, Mollie O’Callaghan, Kyle Chalmers and William Yang – won gold in the last event of the night.

McKeon is now on the cusp of equalling the Australian record for most career gold medals at Commonwealth Games – she has nine, one shy of Ian Thorpe, Susie O’Neill and Leisel Jones.

“I haven’t done the maths … I’m not looking at medal tallies,” McKeon said.

Ariarne Titmus (women’s 200m freestyle), Zac Stubblety-Cook (men’s 200m breaststroke) and para-swimmer Timothy Hodges (men’s 100m backstroke S9) added golden touches for the dominant Dolphins.

Titmus, a month after recovering from COVID, triumphed in an Australian clean sweep of the medals in her final, as did Winnington, who almost quit the sport last year.

The silvers went to Sam Short (men’s 400m freestyle), Mollie O’Callaghan (women’s 200m freestyle) and Emily Beecroft (women’s 100m freestyle S9).

Kiah Melverton (women’s 400m individual medley), Mack Horton (men’s 400m freestyle) and Madi Wilson  (200m freestyle) won bronze medals.

But celebrity swimmer Cody Simpson crashed out of the 50m butterfly, finishing sixth in his semi-final and failing to progress to the final.

Titmus edged her training partner Mollie O’Callaghan by just 0.12 seconds to win a classic shootout between the established and rising stars of Australian swimming.

“I knew coming in she would be there,” Titmus said of her 18-year-old teammate O’Callaghan.

“She’s young. She’s feisty. She’s hungry.

“She’s what I was like – and I am still like that – but it’s exciting to have a bit of a battle out there.”

And Winnington’s win continues his stirring story of swimming redemption – he almost gave up after bombing at last year’s Tokyo Olympics when he entered as raging favourite but finished seventh.

The Queenslander admitted battling depression, feeling like a failure after Tokyo before seeking help from a psychologist and then a mindfulness coach.

After much introspection during months away from the pool, Winnington made a triumphant return to international competition at last month’s world championships in Budapest, winning gold in his pet event.

And now he has added the Commonwealth crown to his collection.

“It was really tough coming off the back of Toyko, I almost quit,” Winnington said.

“I decided to keep going and put myself and my mindset in the right spot to achieve what I have achieved this year.”