After all the heroics, the record-breakers, the child stars, the subliminal, semi-submerged political messages, the gutted poster-boys and the wobbly chinned heirs-apparent, this was expected to a quiet night at Tollcross.
But swimming at these Games doesn’t really do quiet and another mental sellout crowd did their absolute damnedest to get 22-year-old Scot Mark Tully a bronze medal, carrying him home on their roars. That didn’t quite happen and a lad who only took up swimming five years ago was left to wonder what he might have achieved if he’d got into a pool earlier.
Day 5 also saw a terrific triumph for Wales, Jazz Carlin becoming the first woman from the Principality to win a swimming gold for 40 years. That was in the 800m freestyle, one of two finals last night for the omnipresent Hannah Miley. The Scot is entering just about any swim that’s going, and you half expect her to nip over to Edinburgh for the diving later in the week, then put herself on stand-by for a Hampden 4x4 sprint relay.
What a slog the 800m is, and despite leading from the start she faded about a third of the way through. There was a terrific finish for the crowd to enjoy, Carlin just pipping Lauren Boyle of New Zealand in a new Games record of 8:18:11, while Canada’s Brittany Maclean took bronze. Miley in fifth nevertheless achieved a personal best of 8:28:15, her countrywoman Camilla Hattersley finishing seventh.
The last Welshwoman to win gold in the pool was Pat Bevan in 1974. “It’s amazing,” the Swansea 20-year-old said afterwards. “I knew it was going to be a really tough race, there were a lot of strong girls in the pool, but over 16 laps there’s a chance to put in some tactics. I had to time them right but I always knew I had a good back-end.”
The gold completes the Commonwealth set for Carlin, who won silver and bronze four years ago in Delhi. “It’s not really sunk in yet,” she added. “Glasgow was my big target, and I worked the hardest I’ve done. I came here wanting the gold medal so I gave it absolutely everything, leaving nothing in the pool. When they played the Welsh anthem I tried to sing it but I was way too emotional.”
For Miley afterwards, there were mixed emotions. She can’t wait for the swimming to stop but will probably be devastated when it does. “The 800m really hurt,” she said. “I got a little bit too excited at the start and then died spectacularly in the second half. But to get a PB in an event in which I’m not done much training is great.”
Miley also set a personal best in the 200m butterfly final, finishing sixth on 2:09:32. “Just one more day,” she said, as swimming prepares for it’s finale. “And no, I won’t be at the diving. You wouldn’t want to see my spectacular belly flops. After it’s over the thing I’ll be most looking forward to is sleep. And catching up properly with family and friends. I saw them all for a bit the other day. And Euan [Duff, her boyfriend] was there, too, which was a nice surprise. It was only 30 minutes and you can’t really do much in 30 minutes but he told me he was very proud of me. I couldn’t get my gold medal back off after I let him put it round his neck.”
Unsurprisingly, Tranent’s Tully was “absolutely gutted” to lose the 50m breaststroke bronze by one hundredth of a second in a final with three Scots, Ross Murdoch and Joe Welsted finishing sixth and seventh respectively.
“To be honest I’d rather have come last. Last night I was pretty pleased with my performance and tonight I was pretty confident I could put it in the bag get on that podium. Seeing all those Scots swim so well I just wanted to do my part.
“The lights come on at the end of the blocks if you’ve come 1st, 2nd or 3rd and that’s the first thing I looked for. When I saw no lights I just thought ‘Oh sh*t’. I had to take three looks at the scoreboard to see how close I was – that just made it worse.
“But I tried my best and hopefully there’s more to come, having been a late starter at swimming. My mum did a bit of coaching so I just thought I’d try it. Before that I played football for my local team, Tranent Colts. I wasn’t very good to be honest. Thank God I’m a lot better at swimming. I didn’t even expect to final this meet. These are my first Commy Games and I’m going to try and learn from them.”
Another Scot, Kathleen Dawson, qualified for tonight’s 50m backstroke final with a personal best – her second of the day. She’s already exceeded her personal expectations and, without wishing to appear greedy, she’s now desperate to meet Usain Bolt. “He’s my hero and I’d love to bump into him in Glasgow,” said, the 16-year-old from Kirkcaldy. “But I’m leaving town shortly after the swimming’s over so I think I might be disappointed – I’m gutted!”