Gold Coast, Apr 5 (AFP) Olympic champion Mack Horton put himself in line to emulate the great Ian Thorpe as Australia and Scotland shared the honours in the opening day swimming heats at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games on Thursday.
Horton and rising youngster Ariarne Titmus were both fastest qualifiers for Australia, while Hannah Miley and Ross Murdoch gave Scotland hope of double gold for the opening night of finals in the Southport outdoor pool.
There was also drama on day one with English defending champion Ben Proud disqualified after winning his 50m butterfly heat for a false start.
Horton, who upset Chinese reigning Olympic champion Sun Yang to snatch gold at Rio two years ago, will be favourite to take the gold in the 400m freestyle.
If he does he will join five-time Olympic champion Thorpe, who was the last Australian man to win the event in Manchester in 2002.
“I didn’t know that. I feel the pressure is on a lot now,” Horton said. “I’ll just be trying to go as fast as I can tonight.” Horton hit the wall in three minutes 47.93 seconds and had just enough to see off Welshman Daniel Jervis by 0.25secs in his heat, with team-mate Jack McLoughlin third fastest from the other heat.
Horton is bidding for his third career Commonwealth Games medal after winning 4x200m freestyle gold and 1,500m freestyle silver in Glasgow in 2014.
Miley took a giant step towards a historic third consecutive medley gold medal with the fastest time in the 400m individual medley heats.
Miley topped the time charts with 4:38.20, shading England’s Aimee Willmott in her heat.
“It was interesting, it didn’t feel as fresh or as easy as I’d like it to be,” Miley told AFP.
“But it’s kinda nice to just get first one out the way, shake off the cobwebs and see where I’m at.” On her triple gold hopes in Thursday’s final, Miley said: “It is a little added pressure because so far every person I’ve spoken to has brought it up.
“But it’s fine. I’m an athlete. I’ve done something that not many people have done before and I expect that.” Miley, 28, is bidding to become the first Scot to claim three consecutive golds in the same event at the Commonwealth Games after winning gold at Delhi 2010 and Glasgow 2014.
Team-mate Murdoch will defend his Commonwealth 200m breaststroke title later Thursday as the fastest qualifier in the heats with 2:08.77 ahead of Australia’s Matt Wilson and English pair, James Wilby and Andrew Willis.
“The conditions here are pretty unpredictable, literally the conditions can change so quick so it’s about who doesn’t let it affect them and it’s about the race tonight,” Murdoch said.
Titmus backed up her strong trials form with the fastest time in the heats of the 200m freestyle.
The 17-year-old, who became the first Australian woman in 14 years to complete the 200m/400m/800m freestyle treble at the selection trials last month, cruised through to the final in 1:57.02, ahead of her team-mate Emma McKeon (1:57.40).
“I used the (home) crowd smartly and to my advantage to make my swim easier. Hopefully I can belt out a PB (personal best) tonight,” Titmus said.
“I know what I have to do to swim fast and I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.” AFP KHS KHS KHS
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.