Commonwealth Games 2014: Tears dried, Ross Murdoch eyes second gold of three in the pool

Such was the dominance of his swimming on Thursday there is a justified swirl of excitement surrounding the Scot

Tollcross swimming centre

There were a few minutes more than 13 hours between Ross Murdoch scrambling out of the Tollcross pool, eyes stretched wide at what he had just done in winning the 200m breastroke, and the young man from Stirling University diving back in and getting on with the day job.

That is the swimmer’s lot; all the hard work and hard lengths for a moment of adrenaline-filled joy, then it starts all over again. Yesterday morning it was heats for the 100m breaststroke with Murdoch’s eyes now set on tonight’s final of what is his main event. Then comes the 50m and by Monday evening there is the possibility that the Scot will have three gold medals to his name, a name that was unknown outside select circles within his sport and university common room at the start of the week.

That is getting ahead of ourselves but such was the dominance of his swimming on Thursday there is a justified swirl of excitement surrounding Murdoch, both here in Scotland and within British Swimming, a governing body that is in dire need of a boost on the road to Rio after its dire returns from London 2012. England’s 18-year-old Siobhan O’Connor is another young Briton here worth remembering for the 2016 Games.

There are, of course, the Americans, Japanese, Chinese et al to add to the mix come the next Olympics, but Murdoch’s performance on Thursday will have been noted – twice breaking the Commonwealth Games record in a day. This was the third fastest time swum in the 200m breaststroke; he has become a contender. Next year’s world championships in Russia will give a better indication of how good he is. Michael Jamieson, the favourite left in his wake on Thursday, has no doubt as to the young upstart’s ability.

 

“He is a hell of a talent,” said Jamieson. “He is up there with the best in the world. Ross deserved to win.”

The contrast between Jamieson’s thunderously dark demeanour as he received a silver he did not want and Murdoch’s desperate, and futile, attempts to hold back the tears was acute. The old king found no consolation in coming second. He swum well below his best in both heats and final – and was beaten again by Murdoch in the 100m heats yesterday morning. “I came here to win,” said Jamieson, who had arrived ranked the fastest in the world. “I did not prepare for a second place.”

Jamieson suggested Scotland has become the “strongest nation in the world” in this event. It is one his country, and his Olympic one, Britain, has a rich tradition in. David Wilkie, Olympic gold winner in the 200m breaststroke in 1976, was in the stands on Thursday night. Murdoch started swimming at the age of six on the outskirts of  Glasgow. He grew up in  Balfron, Rob Roy country  in the hills between Stirling and Glasgow, and it was  not until he was 17 that he began to feature at national level. His form this year forced him to wider attention – Rebecca Adlington saw enough to tip him to succeed here. He didn’t let her or anyone else down.

Ross Murdoch on his way to victory on Tuesday night Ross Murdoch on his way to victory on Tuesday night (Getty Images)
His face at the moment of victory will be one of the images of this Games; Jamieson’s on the other hand offers a lesson in why coming second, even if it comes with a medal, is no silver lining.

“How do I come back from this?” wondered Jamieson, the poster boy of the Games. “I don’t know yet. I don’t know. I think this one is going to hurt for a while.” Adlington offered her sympathies – her bronze medals in London were accompanied by similar disappointment.

Tonight will be another new experience for Murdoch. Now he will be the hunted, a different pressure, a different expectation. “This has been mind blowing,” he said. And quite possibly life changing.

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