GOLD COAST, Australia (Reuters) - Cate Campbell fought back tears at the Commonwealth Games on Saturday after winning her first individual medal since ending a self-imposed exile from swimming.
The 25-year-old Australian took off the whole of 2017 to deal with the disappointment of a Rio Olympics campaign in which she was the favourite to clinch both freestyle sprint titles but failed in both.
“I didn’t expect to be that emotional having the whole crowd singing the national anthem with me,” Campbell said after winning gold in the 50m freestyle at the Gold Coast Games.
“It got me all teary; so many people have supported me through the past two years and to be able to share that with the rest of Australia was something very special to me.”
Campbell’s path back to the winners’ circle began on Thursday when she anchored the Australian 4x100m freestyle relay team to a world record.
Her Saturday victory was one of three for the host nation on the third day of competition at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre, with Ariarne Titmus holding off a flying Taylor Ruck of Canada to give them the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay title.
Para-swimmer Tim Disken lead an Australian clean-sweep of the men’s S8 100m breaststroke medals.
Chad le Clos and Tatjana Schoenmaker gave South Africa two gold medals, while England’s Adam Peaty continued his four-year unbeaten run in the men’s 100m breaststroke and Canada’s Kylie Masse held off Emily Seebohm in the 100m backstroke.
Le Clos, whose bid on the Gold Coast to take the outright lead as the most successful Commonwealth athlete in history ended on Friday, set himself up for a sweep of butterfly titles when he comfortably claimed the 200m.
The 25-year-old, who won the 50m title on Friday, touched in a Commonwealth Games record of 1:54.00, well ahead of David Morgan. The Australian took silver in 1:56.36 while Scotland’s Duncan Scott won bronze.
“I wanted to go out hard and control the third 50 metres,” said Le Clos, who has now won 14 Commonwealth medals, four away from the record held by shooters Phillip Adams from Australia and Mick Gault of England.
“Obviously it was painful but I wanted to make sure I was comfortably winning... it was my fastest ever 150m split and then I knew, with respect, that the rest was over.”
Schoenmaker, swimming at her first Commonwealth Games, controlled virtually the entire women’s 200m breaststroke to pull away from England’s Molly Renshaw and Chloe Tutton of Wales.
“This is my first Commonwealth Games so a medal is quite big for me now,” the 20-year-old said. “The whole South African team just jumping up, it just made me emotional.”
New Zealand’s flagbearer Sophie Pascoe added to her growing medal collection with victory in the women’s SM10 200m individual medley, while Titmus ensured that Australia finished with another gold when she held off Ruck in a pulsating relay.
The tall, 17-year-old Ruck, however, was arguably the best swimmer on show on Saturday, finishing in a dead heat with Australian Bronte Campbell for silver in the 50m freestyle, then winning bronze in the 100m backstroke some 20 minutes later.
The 200m freestyle champion then swam the fastest split time in the relay but ran out of steam in the final few strokes.
“I definitely felt it on the third 50 metres of that 200,” Ruck said. “But I just tried to keep my head down and race.”
Australia lead the medal table in the pool on 32, with 11 golds. England are a distant second on 14 total medals, seven of which are gold.
Editing by Clare Fallon