Commonwealth Games 2014: Night of the dragon as Jazz Carlin gives Wales gold in 800m freestyle swim

Rebecca Adlington was poolside to see Carlin finally come good and bring a golden end to two years of frustration

Tollcross swimming centre

Scotland have had their night in the pool, so too England. Last night, it was the Welsh turn. Jazz Carlin produced one of the best British swims of a reinvigorating week for the home nations, a perfectly timed performance taking her away from the 800m freestyle field to claim a first swimming gold for Wales.

Carlin has long been nurtured as one of the big hopes of British swimming, even earmarked as the woman to succeed Rebecca Adlington one day in the distance events. Adlington was poolside on Monday night to see Carlin finally come good and bring a golden end to two years of frustration. After becoming the first Welsh woman in 40 years to win gold, there is the chance of another this evening in the 400m freestyle. Double up and the Adlington comparison might begin to hold water.

“After two years of disappointments Jazz really deserved that,” said Adlington. “She has put in so much hard work.”

Carlin is only 23 yet this is her third Commonwealth Games. She has yet to make an Olympic Games, failing to qualify for Team GB after suffering with glandular fever during the trials. Then among the sweeping changes post-Games, she lost her funding and her coach, Bud McAllister, who returned to Australia. Last year she missed out on a medal at the world championships by her fingertips.

 

That at least got her back on the funding programme and last night, her nails decorated with dragons, she made no mistake. Now she can look forward to next year’s world championships and, beyond that, Rio 2016.

Her failing at the World Championships in Barcelona was an inability to close out a race, tiring over the last 50m. That is the area she has focused on in training in Swansea, and in occasional intensive camps with McAllister in Australia. She has not seen McAllister for two months, their contact limited to phone calls and emails. On this evidence, it has not limited her.

She and New Zealand’s Lauren Boyle were neck and neck for 14 of the 16 lengths before Carlin made her move. A lead of 0.45sec with 100m to go became 1.04sec with 50m left. Her dragons stopped the clock at 8min 18.11sec, a personal best by four seconds and a new Games record. It is seven seconds short of the world mark of Katie Ledecky – the 17-year-old who stunned Adlington in London – set in June, but Carlin’s time would have won her silver in London. This is a swimmer heading in the right direction.

Sophie Taylor, right, embraces Australia’s Lorna Tonks on the podium Sophie Taylor, right, embraces Australia’s Lorna Tonks on the podium (PA)

“Coming away with a gold medal makes you really appreciate what you’ve been through,” said Carlin. “I’ve overcome some real lows and hard times. It really does make it really special and so emotional, that’s why I was crying so much.

“It was a really difficult time for me with Bud moving to Australia. It has been tough – I’ve just had to get on with it with Glasgow in the back of my mind – it’s always been a big target. I’ve just kept my head down and worked as hard as I have ever done.”

Sophie Taylor took a surprise gold in the 100m breaststroke, the 18-year-old from Yorkshire becoming the third English teenager to stand on top of the podium in Tollcross after Ben Proud and Adam Peaty. Last night Peaty took a breathless silver behind the South African world record holder Cameron van der Burgh in the 50m breaststroke to add to his 100m gold from Saturday, while Proud will swim for his second gold tonight after qualifying fastest in the splash and dash, 50m freestyle.

Alia Atkinson had threatened a first swimming gold for Jamaica, leading with three quarters of the race gone, but abruptly ran out of gas. Taylor needed no second invitation.

“I could see Alia next to me,” said Taylor. “I could see she was dying, so I just gave it my all.”

Adam Peaty took silver in the 50m breaststroke yesterday after his gold in the 100m on Saturday Adam Peaty took silver in the 50m breaststroke yesterday after his gold in the 100m on Saturday (Getty)

With Peaty, Ross Murdoch and Michael Jamieson, British breaststroking is in a good place right now, although as Jon Rudd, England’s head coach, would no doubt point out Taylor remains someway short of matching Plymouth-based world-record holder Ruta Meilutyte. Rudd’s day job is coaching the Lithuanian, who is still only 17. 

There was also a silver for Aimee Willmott in the 200m fly after she faded in the closing stages and there was a bronze for Adam Barrett in the 100m fly.

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