IT’s not often that events in the pool have been overshadowed during these Games but, despite the swimmers dishing up another bronze medal through first-day hero Ross Murdoch, there was something anti-climatic about events at Tollcross last night.
Such are the standards they have set. It is a measure of how high hopes have been raised and how impressively the swimmers have delivered at their home event. As news of more gold medals filtered through from the judo hall Scotland tried, tried and tried again to get among the top finishers in the pool. The first three attempts were praiseworthy but, ultimately, they came up short.
Cameron Brodie and Hannah Miley had to settle for fourth in the men’s 200m butterfly and the women’s 200m breaststroke. They both posted personal bests but those are less noticeable when they are not accompanied by precious metal.
In the men’s para-sport 200m freestyle S14 category, Craig Rodgie finished fifth.
But the hope was that the party had simply been delayed and everything was pinned on the man who helped kick things off on Thursday, Murdoch, who had qualified second fastest in the men’s 100m breaststroke, and his team-mate Craig Benson.
Murdoch is a man full of self-belief after he stunned everyone by beating the Commonwealth Games poster boy Michael Jamieson over 200m. And, as he walked into the arena, emerging through the theatrical bursts of smoke, he raised his arms in a two-handed salute to the crowd. He looked relaxed but he knew that people were relying on him to deliver and spark something ahead of the women’s 4x200m freestyle.
In lane two Benson was an outside chance for the rostrum, provided he could shave something off his qualifying time and dip below the minute mark. But the onus was on Murdoch. Still only 20, it is a sign of what is to come for the man who has elevated his own status within the team and in the public’s consciousness with his feats so far.
He was up against a man on his own mission. The only man who had qualified for the final in a time that surpassed the Scot’s, Englishman Adam Peaty improved on it in the lung-bursting finale. He had to. With Murdoch posting a personal best in the lane just inside him, the other home nations swimmer was forced to dig deep, setting a new Commonwealth Games record of 58.94sec to finish ahead of Cameron Van Der Burgh and the home favourite.
A bronze was still worth celebrating, given the quality of Murdoch’s swim and the calibre of the men he was up against, whilst Benson’s efforts were also laudable, allowing him to touch the wall in fourth place. But compared with what was happening elsewhere, it was not enough to give the swimmers the limelight they have hogged along with judo in the early days of this sporting jamboree.
Perhaps the signs had been there when the poles used to raise the national flags during the medal ceremonies had failed to work. The organisers had been reduced to sending out flag bearers to hold aloft the colours at the opposite end of the pool.
It had all been set up to finish differently, with Scotland’s Commonwealth Games champion David Wilkie charged with presenting the medals. He had no doubt hoped he could save Murdoch ’til last but he was first up. Gazing at his bronze, the young Scot was still full of smiles, the memories of the gold he already has stashed somewhere safe enough to dull any disappointment he harboured at not finishing higher in the rankings.
“I’m really pleased. That was a personal best for me off the back of the 200m,” said Murdoch. “It was a fantastic race by myself and I just want to say congratulations to Adam Peaty – he’s the first British man to go sub 59 secs.”
It was a night when Scottish fans were reminded just how tough gold medals are to come by in the pool. They left without hearing the Scottish national anthem but they will have gone home all the more aware of the scale of the Scotland team’s efforts thus far.
The golds came elsewhere last night but no one at Tollcross was short-changed. Even with the women’s 4x200m relay team trailing in fifth, everyone gave their all.