Commonwealth Games 2014: Ross Murdoch and Hannah Miley steal Michael Jamieson’s thunder in the pool

The poster boy of Glasgow 2014 arrived here as the fastest man in the world this year only for his form to desert him when he needed it most

at tollcross swimming centre

This was supposed to be all about Michael Jamieson. Instead over the Tollcross Road from the McVitie’s factory, it was Ross Murdoch who took the biscuit, the Tunnock’s tea cake and any other sweet treats you can think off – and this is a city with a well-known sweet tooth – capping the rousing opening night the host nation craved.

The swimming programme has been arranged to allow Scotland to launch their best medal hopes over the first couple of days of competition and, so the plan went, Jamieson was supposed to be the crowning glory. He began his career here in between trips to nearby Celtic Park, is the poster boy of Glasgow 2014 and had arrived home accompanied by a weight of expectation only the likes of Jessica Ennis and Rebecca Adlington can appreciate.

There had been signs that it was all getting to the usually uber-composed Jamieson. He was outswum in qualifying this morning by Murdoch and admitted to nerves. Had he held something back, as the best do in heats, or was he wobbling?

David Wilkie, Scotland’s greatest swimmer, was among those who worried the grand finale to “Thunder Thursday” for the home nation might all go a bit flat. Not a bit of it but it was thanks to Murdoch and Hannah Miley, who took the first gold of the night with a storming swim and a performance clearly buoyed by a vociferous home support, rather than Jamieson.

The 25-year-old raced Murdoch, five years his junior, down the final length of the 200m breaststroke. Each had worked their way through the field over the course of the race and there was little between them as they turned for home.

 

Now was the time for the man of the moment to surge past his young team-mate but Murdoch, who comes from Alexandria, a few miles outside Glasgow, finished the stronger and turned eyes wide to stare in disbelief at the scoreboard.

Jamieson had arrived here as the fastest man in the world this year only for his form to desert him when he needed it most. As in London two years ago he was second best. Once again it was a surprise, only an altogether less pleasant one for him. He was fighting back the tears as he received his medal.

Miley said she felt 10 times the pressure here than she had in London. Jamieson too felt it and it was Miley who handled it the better, producing a devastating last 100m to win the 400m individual medley. Two years ago she had clambered breathlessly out of the Olympic pool in London in tears having come a distant fifth behind Ye Shiwen’s world-record swim. That was on the first day of the London Games when nothing went according to script. Tonight could not have been a greater contrast for the 24-year-old from the north-east of Scotland.

Michael Jamieson arrived in Glasgow as the fastest man in the world this year but suffered more final agony Michael Jamieson arrived in Glasgow as the fastest man in the world this year but suffered more final agony (PA)
There were tears again but this time they came as the gold medal hung around her neck and “Flower of Scotland” echoed around the pool. It is her first major medal since London – like  so many of Team GB there has been a hangover for both the successful and unsuccessful athletes. As, inevitably,  The Proclaimers accompanied her lap of honour the disappointment of London fell away.

“It’s been a tough year,” said Miley. “I’ve had to stop and take stock, ask: “Is it really working? Am I going in the right direction? Do I need to move?”

She has remained at home in Inverurie, training under the guidance of her father Patrick in her local pool, all four lanes and 25m of it. This though was the first major event she has swum without Patrick Miley, a former soldier now a North Sea helicopter pilot, in attendance as part of her coaching set-up as he is not with Team Scotland. He was in tears too as he bent over the barrier at the front of the stands to hug his daughter.

Miley, who was defending the title she won in Delhi four years ago, kept her cool on the hottest day of Scotland’s year even when Aimee Willmott of England – the two are friends and British team-mates – opened up a second lead with 300m gone. Miley flew down the seventh of the eight lengths and led at the final turn. Willmott could not keep pace. By the end the victory margin was 1.25sec and the Games record had been lowered again.

“My body was screaming and I could hardly get out the pool,” said Willmott. Miley, her cheeks flushed, clambered on to the lane dividers to try and celebrate but slipped back into the water, equally exhausted. Instead the crowd rose to her

“I literally couldn’t feel  my legs for the last 50 so, when I touched the wall, I was hoping and praying that I could go fast,” said Miley. “The crowd was pretty cool. When I walked out I had my headphones on and it was hard to stay in that bubble and drown out the crowd.” Nae chance, as they say in these parts.

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