Australia began day eight of the Commonwealth Games with 50 gold medals, a metaphorical bat raised towards the pavilion with hopes of more to come. Instead, after such a dominant opening week, the Australian team stalled for the first time and were unable to add to their golden tally in Birmingham.
Host nation England promptly closed the gap on the medal board with a swag of golds to sit on 47, trailing by just three with as many days to go. But the one-day drought did not mean the day was a complete disappointment for Australia.
Decathlete Cedric Dubler will forever be remembered for the outstanding sportsmanship and selflessness he showed at the Tokyo Olympics last year, but for all the backslapping that followed, Dubler is a competitive beast and he wanted his own medal. Now he has a bronze.
Over the past two days, the Queenslander was centre stage throughout the decathlon when engaging in an enthralling battle with Grenadian Lindon Victor and fellow Australian Daniel Golubovic. After eight events, Dubler had the lead. But the defending Commonwealth Games champion Victor rebounded strongly in the javelin, his favourite event, to seize control. By the end, Golubovic passed Dubler as well when claiming the 1500m in brilliant fashion to clinch the silver in what proved a great event to watch.
Australia also produced medal-winning performances at the gymnastics and the aquatic centre, while Jayden Lawrence claimed a bronze in wrestling in the 86kg class. Despite competing in his last two fights with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the 27-year-old managed to win the nation’s first medal in the sport since the Delhi Games in 2010. Asked whether battling through the pain was worth it, he told the Seven Network; “Bloody oath.”
Diver Brittany O’Brien was struggling to leap from the platform in her favoured 10m event a year ago when her coach suggested a change in focus. She switched to the springboard and will return to Australia with a silver medal after an outstanding effort in the 1m event.
Sam Fricker partnered Shixin Li to a bronze medal in the 3m springboard, while Dom Bedggood and Cassiel Rousseau matched the feat in the synchronised 10m platform. Alexandra Kiroi-Bogatyreva also claimed a bronze in the rhythmic gymnastics all around event.
On the track, Ella Connolly qualified for the women’s 200m final with a time of 23.41 seconds, while Michelle Jenneke hurdled superbly in the 100m. Connolly ran a brilliant semi-final when placing second behind Namibian teenager Christine Mboma with an outstanding performance she described as “crazy”.
The final appeals as a match race between Mboma and Jamaican legend Elaine Thompson-Herah, who is seeking to complete a Commonwealth Games 100m and 200m sprint double after completing the feat in the Rio De Janeiro and Tokyo Olympics. But Connelly has vowed to give her very best as she fights for a medal. “I need to get out to a good start again and hold my form in the last 100m and just stay relaxed,” she said.
Jenneke ran a personal best of 12.63 seconds when qualifying for the 100m hurdle final, though it will not count on her official record given it was wind-assisted. The key to her return to form, and to succeeding this weekend, is staying happy and relaxed. “I’m not someone who likes to be super focussed on what I do. Even in the call room I am chatting with officials. That’s what I do,” she said.
But there was disappointing news for cycling star Caleb Ewan who was forced to withdraw from Sunday’s road race after undergoing surgery to remove a plate from his collarbone. Ewan is devastated and so is Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Nicola Olyslagers, who has withdrawn from the women’s high jump final on Saturday with a calf tear.
The Hockeyroos closed out an entertaining Friday when defeating India in a penalty shootout, in doing so, they avenged a heartbreaking loss in the quarter-finals of the Tokyo Olympics. But it was not without drama, with India levelling late at 1-1 to force a penalty shootout. Australia were able to make their first three attempts in the shootout, while India failed to convert, to progress to Sunday’s final against England. It may prove a decisive battle to the overall medal tally.