Halsall beats 'Delhi Belly' to lead British fightback in pool

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The Independent Online

The Empire strikes back. Well, the seat of the old Empire, at any rate. If the opening day of the swimming competition in the Commonwealth Games pool belonged to Australia, on day two it was the home nations from Britannia that ruled the waves.

The strains of the Grimethorpe Colliery Band playing "Jerusalem" rang round the SP Mukherjee Aquatics Complex not once but twice. It did so, getting its first couple of airings in a Commonwealth Games arena, as Fran Halsall then Liam Tancock stood at the top of the rostrum wearing England tracksuits with gold medals hanging round their necks. There was also a maiden rendition of "Flower of Scotland" as a victory anthem, thanks to Robbie Renwick's gutsy swim in the final event of the day, the 200m freestyle.

Australia did pick up the gold from the other event contested on day two, Leiston Pickett winning the 50m breaststroke, but after collecting three on the opening day they now have only a slender 4-3 advantage in the gold medal stakes against the combined forces of the British nations. Asked how she felt when she stood on the top step of the rostrum after her dramatic victory in the 50m butterfly, Halsall replied: "It was just nice to see an England flag on top and two Aussie flags underneath."

Halsall, who has three other individual events plus two relays still to contest, managed to strike gold in one of her weaker events while suffering from "Delhi Belly". "It's quite painful," she said. "I've had to see the doctor."

The effervescent 20-year-old from Stockport had the stomach for the fight, coming from behind to snatch victory with her final stroke, touching the wall 0.03sec ahead of world champion Marieke Guehrer in 26.27sec, with another highly fancied Aussie, Emily Seebohm, in third. "I enjoy being the underdog," Halsall, the world championship silver medallist in the 100m freestyle, reflected.

As the reigning world champion and world record holder in the second event on the programme yesterday, Tancock started as the man to beat in the 50m backstroke. The native Devonian blitzed to victory in 24.62sec, a Commonwealth Games record. Like Halsall, he finished with two Aussies in his wake, Hayden Stoeckel and Ashley Delaney.

"It was really inspiring to see Fran come away with the gold from the first final," Tancock said, "especially as we have the same coach in Ben Titley at Loughborough." There was another medal for England, and for Titley's Loughborough stable, Kate Haywood taking bronze in the 50m breaststroke.

Then came the thrilling finale of Renwick holding off Aussie Kenrick Monk to claim gold in the 200m freestyle – the first gold of the 2010 Games for Scotland, and secured by a son of the city where the 2014 Games will be held. The 22-year-old Glaswegian prevailed by a mere 0.02sec, clocking 1min 47.88sec. "It was a tight finish," Renwick reflected. "It doesn't matter now, though. I'm the Commonwealth champion."

Delhi diary: What to watch

9.30am: Edgar leads the way

Scottish cyclist Ross Edgar will be disappointed with anything other than a podium finish in the men's kierin.

9.30am: Weight on young shoulders

Sixteen-year-old Zoe Smith seeks to win England's first-ever women's weightlifting medal as she competes in the 58kg class.

1.04pm: Back in at the deep end

British pair Becky Adlington and Jazmin Carlin resume their rivalry, this time in the women's 4x200m freestyle. The men's relay follows at 1.21pm.

TV 8-11am, 1-2.15pm, BBC 2. 11am-1pm, 2.15-5pm, BBC 1. Highlights: 7-8pm BBC 2. Additional coverage on BBCi.