Commonwealth Games 2014: World-class Fran Halsall back to her best in the pool

English swimmer is reborn after disastrous time at London 2012 while Adam Peaty upsets Ross Murdoch

glasgow

Fran Halsall has been like a swimmer reborn here. Before the race her rivals for gold, the Campbell sisters, labelled her the "pocket rocket" and "smiling assassin" but in truth Australian siblings Cate and Bronte were expected to beat Halsall.

Instead, the English swimmer produced the quickest time – 23.96 seconds – ever recorded by a female in the 50m freestyle since the space-age suits were scrapped at the start of 2010. Currently the fastest woman on water, she is effectively the Usain Bolt of the pool.

It proved a golden night for England in the pool with Adam Peaty upstaging home favourite Ross Murdoch in the 100m breaststroke, with a world-class performance to match that of Halsall.

To add to Halsall's achievement, she returned 45 minutes later to break her personal best in the 50m butterfly, the event in which she is already defending champion. Not even a mix-up over equipment or the fact her heated pants stopped working as she tried to keep warm poolside could curtail her blazing a trail in Scottish waters.

"It's been like a fairy tale for me really to do my best time in the freestyle," she said. "Two best times in an evening in fact, you can't ask for much more than that. It's an evening that's going to stay with me for a very long time."

The path to the Commonwealth Games, though, has not been without its problems. Her personal nadir came at London 2012. Tipped as a potential star, she struggled behind the scenes with a shoulder injury and left the capital devastated with two fifth places her best results.

Events in the Tollcross pool, where she had already won silver in the 4x100m freestyle, have certainly eased the pain. The 24-year-old is smaller than many of her rivals but her power in the water and ability to virtually skim over the surface are her greatest talents.

Arguably the one issue that was holding her back was mental rather than physical. A change of coach to the former swimmer James Gibson has also meant a change of mental approach working with Sarah Broadhead, one of the proteges of the celebrated sports psychiatrist Professor Steve Peters.

"I'm not a person who shies away from a race, I'm a person that gets over-excited and overtires so it's about reeling me back and making sure I get the balance right, and Sarah makes me calm and ready to race fast after a difficult Olympics."

Despite the new-found mental fortitude she still felt sick on the start line due to a mixture of nerves and adrenalin, which she used to good effect, not once getting sidetracked by the swimmers around her to leave the Campbell sisters to have to make do with silver and bronze.

The new golden boy of Scottish swimming Murdoch could not make it double gold in the 100m breaststroke, instead having to make do with bronze as Peaty produced the swim of his life to upstage world record-holder Cameron van der Burgh with a Commonwealth Games record of 58.94sec.

Van der Burgh, Peaty's idol, set a fearsome pace from the outset but his 19-year-old rival showed amazing maturity to pace his own race to perfection and slowly reel him in during the final quarter.

"I'm so emotional right now," he said. "I can't believe it. It's a dream. I've studied his race for a long time and watched. He's my idol and my rival now. I just gave my country my best and it paid off."

The undoubted international star of the pool, Chad le Clos, who has targeted medals in seven events in these Games, admitted he had feared he was in danger of missing his No 1 event, the 200m breaststroke, after twisting his ankle as he stepped off the bus at the athletes' village shortly after midnight.

Of course, he was being watched by his family, including his larger-than-life-father Bert, all bedecked in red T-shirts with le Clos' picture on it and the word "Unbelievable", Bert's trademark catchphrase when interviewed after his son's golden moment in London 2012.

There was a silver and bronze respectively for Thomas Hamer in the para-sport 200m freestyle S14 and Molly Renshaw in the 200m breaststroke.

Georgia Davies added to Wales' tally with silver in the 100m backstroke while Jack Thomas won bronze behind Hamer in his race.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
British musician Mark Ronson arrives for the UK premiere of the film 'Mortdecai'
music
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us