Gold stars for Jackson, Daley and Brown. For the rest: must do better
A household name and two relative unknowns stood out for the UK but standards varied wildly. Simon Turnbull grades performances
Friday 15 October 2010
Never mind the quality; feel the width of the gold medal column. For an England track and field team ravaged by withdrawals, injuries and non-availabilities, it proved to be exactly the same in Delhi as it had been in Melbourne four years ago.
There were six English winners in 2006: Phillips Idowu (triple jump), Dean Macey (decathlon), Nick Nieland (javelin), Christine Ohuruogu (400m), Lisa Dobriskey (1500m) and Kelly Sotherton (heptathlon). None of the sextet were in Delhi to defend their titles. Into the breach came new champions: Andy Turner (110m hurdles), Leon Baptiste (200m), Jo Jackson (20km walk), Louise Hazel (heptathlon), and the men's and women's 4x100m relay teams.
The quality all-round on the 2010 track and field programme was not the highest. Turner's winning time (13.38sec) was the second-slowest since 1978, Baptiste's (20.45) the second-slowest since 1974, and Hazel's winning points tally (6,156) the second-lowest ever. Turner completed a rare European and Commonwealth double and led an English clean sweep of the medals in the high hurdles, William Sharman taking silver and Lawrence Clarke – a 20-year-old with a big future – claiming bronze. It was Jackson's performance, however, that was the most meritorious.
Despite the stifling heat and humidity, she won in a Games record time of 1hr 34min 22sec. She also became the first non-Australian to take the Commonwealth 20km race walk title – and the first female British race walker to win a major championship gold medal.
Like Turner, Dai Greene emulated his gold medal-winning success at the European Championships in Barcelona in July. He did so in the red vest of Wales, of course, with his team-mate and training partner, Rhys Williams, claiming bronze. For Scotland, Eilidh Child took silver in the women's 400m hurdles while Steph Twell produced a battling performance for bronze in the 1500m.
The most gripping duel in the pool came not on the swimming side of the tracks at the dusty, pigeon-poop-riddled Dr SP Mukherjee Aquatics Complex but on the diving side. The battle for the gold in the men's 10m platform final went right to the last dive. It was then that the pressure applied by the excellence of Tom Daley took its toll on Matt Mitcham.
Mitcham ultimately buckled but it had been a cracking contest between the 22-year-old Australian, the reigning Olympic champion, and the 16-year-old world champion who returned home yesterday to start his A levels – in maths, Spanish and photography – at Plymouth College. Daley has had his troubles this year, and continues to be hampered by the triceps injury that kept him out of the European Championships in August, but he has become a supreme big-time performer.
His third-round dive in the individual event was a thing of perfection, earning a 10 from each of the seven poolside judges. Having also won the synchro 10m platform in tandem with Max Brick, he has two Commonwealth gold medals.
Daley also happens to be blessed with a temperament beyond his slender years. "I have never seen anyone so young handle themselves in such a mature fashion," Alexi Evangulov, the national performance director for British Diving said. "He is mentally very tough." Which bodes well for the 2012 Olympics and beyond.
It augurs well on the swimming side of the fence that Rebecca Adlington won gold medals in the 400m and 800m freestyle, despite being of the many from the aquatic fraternity afflicted by Delhi belly. The Mansfield woman is one tough cookie. So is Fran Halsall, who swam through illness to claim five medals. England won 29 swimming medals, six up on Melbourne.
It was good while it lasted. The tweets and counter-tweets made by Amir Khan in support of his kid brother added a touch of the fight game's celebrated razzle dazzle to the Commonwealth boxing competition.
Overlooked for selection by England, Haroon Khan chose to fight for the land of his Pakistani father to prove a point at the Talkatora Indoor Stadium. He proved it, up to a point, in beating Andrew Selby of Wales to reach the semi-finals of the 52kg flyweight division.
"I hope the England selectors wake up now and the people above realise the selectors aint doing the job right," Amir tweeted from his training camp in the Philippines. Rob McCracken, England's head coach, responded: "It doesn't prove anything. Khalid Yafi is the No 1 flyweight in England and he isn't here. He's injured."
To which Amir counted: "Well, it proves 1 thing bob you can't select a good team. Haha."
Khan's 19-year-old brother was defiant to the end but not exactly laughing after he was outclassed in his semi, beaten 9-3 by India's Suranjoy Mayengbam. Still, Haroon left Delhi with a bronze medal, to go with his lingering grievance.
McCracken and the England team left with an air of disappointment and with a deficit in the precious metal department. Historically, England are the undisputed kings of the Commonwealth boxing ring, with a three lions' share of the titles and a list of gold medal winners that includes the likes of John Conteh, Pat Cowdell and Richie Woodhall.
In Delhi they got five fighters through to finals but only two of them emerged as winners: heavyweight Simon Vallily and lightweight Tom Stalker. That amounted to a 3-2 defeat on the title front to Northern Ireland and a fall in the gold standard from the last Games. There were five English winners then.
The prize for the winners at the Commonwealth Games has glittered with a greater degree of brightness for some than for others.
Take Danielle Brown, for instance. She was one of the three English archers who won the compound team competition at the Yamuna Sports Complex. The others were Nicky Hunt and Nichola Simpson. Hunt, a physiotherapist from Ipswich, also won the individual compound and was chosen to carry the England flag at the closing ceremony last night.
It is Brown's gold medal-winning feat that will linger longer in the record books, however. The 22-year-old law graduate from Lonsdale in North Yorkshire suffers from reflex sympathetic dystrophy, a neurological condition that causes excruciating pain in her legs. She uses a wheelchair and crutches to get about.
On day one at the Yamuna complex she became the first Paralympian to compete for England in an able-bodied event at the Commonwealth Games. On day four she became the first Paralympian to win Commonwealth gold for England in an able-bodied event.
She did so shrugging her shoulders at the significance of what she had achieved. "I have never thought of sport as having any boundaries," she said.
David Millar crossed a sporting rubicon when he allowed himself to be pumped full of the blood-boosting drug erythropoietin. That was four years ago. Four years ago when he was caught doing it, at any rate. He is now an anti-doping campaigner and on Wednesday he became the first Scottish cyclist to win a Commonwealth road title, prevailing in the 40km individual time trial. He also became the first reinstated doping offender to win a Commonwealth gold medal for Scotland – a gold that did not have quite the same sheen to it as that of Danielle Brown.
Final medals table
1. Australia 74/55/48/177
2. India 38/27/36/101
3. England 37/59/46/142
4. Canada 26/17/32/75
5. South Africa 12/11/10/33
6. Kenya 12/11/9/32
7. Malaysia 12/10/13/35
8. Singapore 11/11/9/31
10. Scotland 9/10/7/26
13. N Ireland 3/3/4/10
15. Wales 2/7/10/19
Fool's Gold? How the British winners would have fared at the Olympics
The home nations will bring home a bumper crop of 197 medals from Delhi, but what does that mean for the London Olympics in two years' time? Here, we compare the performances of some of our gold medallists on the track, in the pool and on the diving board to see how their times or points compare with the winners at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing (Only Tom Daley stands out):
Delhi gold medal-winner/Event/Delhi winning score/time/Beijing Olympics winning score/time/Where Delhi gold medallist would have finished in Beijing
Leon Baptiste (Eng) Men's 200m/20.45/19.30 (WR)/6th
Andy Turner (Eng) Men's 110m Hurdles/13.38 /12.93/6th
Men's 4x100m (Eng) Relay/38.74/37.10 (WR)/7th
Dai Greene (Wal) Men's 400m hurdles /48.52/47.25/6th
Women's 4x100m (Eng) Relay/44.19/42.31/Not made final
Jo Jackson (Eng) 20km Walk/1.34.22 /1.26.31/31st
Louise Hazel (Eng) Heptathlon/6,156 points/6733 points/16th
Swimming (Times affected by banning of LZR Racer swimsuits after Beijing Olympics.)
Liam Tancock (Eng) Men's 100m Backstroke/53.59/52.54 (WR)/8th
James Goddard (Eng) Men's 200m Backstroke/1.55.58 /1.53.94 (WR)/5th
James Goddard (Eng) Men's 200m Individual Medley/1.58.10/1.54.23 (WR)/4th
Robbie Renwick (Sco) Men's 200m Freestyle/1.47.88/1.42.96 (WR)/Not made final
Rebecca Adlington (Eng) Women's 400m Freestyle/4.05.68/4.03.29 /8th (last)
Rebecca Adlington (Eng) Women's 800m freestyle/8.24.69/8.14.10 (WR)/5th
Hannah Miley (Sco) Women's 400m Individual Medley/4.38.83/4.29.45 (WR)/6th
Tom Daley (Eng) 10m Platform/538.35 points/537.95 points/Gold
Daley and Max Brick (Eng) Synchronised 10m Platform/439.65 points/468.18 points/6th
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