As the sun dropped behind the floodlit 6,000-seat arena, the 20-year- old from Newcastle dominated the opening event in the pool, leading from the blocks to win in a new record of 55.17sec. "It feels fantastic to be England's first gold medallist," she said. "I've started on a high and nothing will get me down. I'm one-third of the way to my goal of winning three gold medals. I always go out fast and towards the end I thought, `Oh God, just let it finish', because I didn't have that much left."
The defending champion, Karen Pickering, was never in the race, finishing fifth in 56.45 seconds and some way off her best. The women's 4x200m freestyle team won silver and Darren New took bronze in the 100m breaststroke.
The 18-year-old from Bath University will now be the man to continue England's strong breaststroke tradition. After a slow start, New turned in seventh at the 50m mark. But he surged through the field in the final 25m, finally just running out of water. His time of 1min 02.52sec was just 0.06sec of a second behind the silver medal position and half a second away from gold. "I was disappointed to be seventh at the 50 but I'm learning all the time," New said. Richard Maden finished eighth in 1:04.38.
On an inspiring night in the pool the highlight was the men's 200m freestyle. The world's top three lined up an assault on the oldest men's record in the books, Giorgio Lamberti's 1:46.69 from way back in 1989. The Australian world champion, Michael Klim, and his team mate, the prodigious 15-year-old with the freakish size 16 feet, Ian Thorpe, took on the Olympic champion from New Zealand, Danyon Loader.
Klim was the outstanding swimmer of this January's World Championships, winning four gold, two silver and one bronze medal, but it was Thorpe who overwhelmed his rivals finishing an agonising hundredth of a second outside the world record.
Klim finished second and Australia took the first clean sweep of the championships when Daniel Kowalski came home in third. England's Andy Clayton was eighth in 1:51.04.