Fri, Mar 17, 2006 - Page 24 News List

Rest of the Empire strikes back at Aussie swimmers

COMMONWEALTH GAMESScotland dominated the pool events on the Games' opening day, although Australia did manage to top the overall medals table

AP , MELBOURNE

India's Nemijakpam Kunjarani Devi jumps in the air after winning the gold medal in the women's weightlifting 48kg category at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia, yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

So much for Australia's domination of the Commonwealth Games swimming pool.

At the end of the first night of swimming, Scotland was the unlikely leader with two gold medals, while New Zealand, South Africa and Australia had one apiece.

Australia was on top overall yesterday, winning three of the first 11 gold medals -- including a pair in cycling -- to have 12 medals in total.

The Scots were 2-for-2 in the pool after Caitlin McClatchey upset Libby Lenton to win the 200m freestyle and David Carry won the 400m -- exposing Australia's lack of depth in an event that the absent Ian Thorpe has dominated for eight years.

McClatchey won in 1 minute, 57.25 seconds, wiping more than two seconds of her personal best to end Lenton's bid for a seven gold medals.

"Obviously I can't win seven gold now, it's impossible, so it's a bit of pressure off," Lenton said.

Lenton said she didn't know much about McClatchey, who wiped two seconds off her personal best to get an unexpected Commonwealth title.

"I just was hoping to get a medal and try to keep up with Libby and Mel because they go out pretty fast," McClatchey said. "I didn't expect to win, so it was fantastic, it's a bit of a shock."

Stephanie Rice ended Scotland's surge when she overhauled Brooke Hanson and led an Australian 1-2-3 finish in the 200m medley.

But the local revival ended there. New Zealander Moss Bermester beat two Aussies in the men's 200m butterfly, prompting a celebratory Maori haka from some bare-chested Kiwi teammates in the stands.

South Africa's Olympic champion and world-record holding 4x100m freestyle relay just held on to beat the locals, snapping Australia's run of six Commonwealth Games titles.

Australia has topped the medal standings at the last four Commonwealth Games -- the last two in a landslide.

While it wasn't dominant in the swimming pool, Australia won the first two of three gold medals awarded in track cycling.

Olympic champion and world record holder Anna Meares and Ben Kersten gave Australia a pair of gold medals.

Meares earned Australia's first gold of the games, winning the 500m time trial in 34.326 seconds -- the second-fastest time ever over the distance.

England's Victoria Pendleton, the world champion, took silver in 34.662, while Anna's sister Kerry Meares, the defending Commonwealth champion, was third.

Kersten upset a pair of British riders, taking the kilometer time trial in 1 minute, 1.815 seconds ahead of England's Jason Queally and Scotland's Chris Hoy, the Olympic champion.

England swept the podium in the men's individual pursuit, with Paul Manning beating Rob Hayles in the gold medal final and Stephen Cummings defeating Jason Allen of New Zealand for the bronze.

The rest of the Empire fought back against Australia from a few fronts, starting with veteran Indian weightlifter Nemijakpam Kunjarani Devi's claiming the first gold medal of this year's games by defending her title in the 48kg class.

Malaysia's Mohammad Faizal won the men's 56kg event, where India's Vicky Batta took his second silver in successive Commonwealth Games and Matin bin Guntali, another Malaysian, took the bronze.

The weightlifting started under the specter of doping, again.

Federal Sports Minister Rod Kemp confirmed that unspecified pills were found along with syringes, vials and a suspicious substance in rooms at the Australian Institute of Sport where domestic and foreign athletes had prepared for the Melbourne Games.

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