AS they made their grand entrance for the 100m breaststroke semi-final, it was clear which man had left the aquatics centre with a gold medal in his pocket the previous night and which one had stumbled out with nothing but tattered dreams.
Having lost out to his countryman in the 200m breastroke on the opening night of competition, Michael Jamieson shuffled out to his starting block, the shoulders slumped and a face etched with sadness. Just as a mourner will attempt a smile of gratitude as someone passes on their condolences, so too the poster boy forced the corners of his frown upside down as the home crowd tried to pick him up with nothing more than volume and sheer good will. They knew how much his heart must have ached and they made it clear they would have loved to see him gain some modicum of comfort from a great performance over the shorter distance. But, in his weaker discipline, that was unlikely, even if he had been full of self-belief rather than ravaged by what-ifs.
“The 100m is always really tough for me but I should be making that final, definitely,” he said. “I am really flat. It is easy for people on the outside to say I should just get up for it, but last night was my chance to do what I wanted and I wasn’t able to turn it on, which wasn’t great.”
For a man so visibly lacking in cheer at the moment, he says he has to find a way to be positive for the other swimmers as the team attempt to add to the medal haul.
“I just want to try and enjoy it now,” he continued. “Just relax and do my best to support the rest of the team. It wasn’t hard for me to come out for this one because just to be racing for my country in an event like this is a big honour, I am we’ll aware that I am in a privileged position to do this. But I’m not swimming the times I want and no athlete enjoys not being at their best.
“I think anyone in that position finds it hard to come back after disappointment but my job now is to be a cheerleader.”
In stark contrast, as Ross Murdoch followed Jamieson and their team-mate and fellow semi-finalist Craig Benson out into the arena last night, there was a very obvious swagger. This was someone operating at the very opposite end of the confidence scale.He revealed that he had struggled to control the surge of adrenaline that had coursed through his body in the aftermath of his gold medal win, admitting that sleep had been at a premium, but that did not hinder his performance as he qualified second fastest for this evening’s final. Benson will join him. Jamieson will not.
“I didn’t get back to the [athlete’s] village until about 12.30am and was up for another two hours trying to get myself to sleep,” said Murdoch. “It wasn’t the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had but it wasn’t the worst either.”
With another medal within his reach, he says he has postponed the celebrations. “We have access to newspapers and TVs in the village but I have very much put myself inside that bubble and refused to look at the papers. It can have a detrimental effect on an athlete’s performance and I just want to stay clear of that. Things are getting better. That was a solid swim for me.
“It was a really good job. It was nice and easy down the first 50m and then I saw [Cameron] Van der Burgh coming down that last 50 and I thought I would push him that extra little bit so I could get the touch in that semi final. Hopefully I can still go that little bit faster.
“I’m swimming with more confidence, that’s for sure. I know in my 200m I had a fantastic back end and I know I can have that again in the 100m. It has been a really positive reaction from the Scottish people from that result last night. I’m really happy with it. I’m still in a state of disbelief but it’s all about keeping it going for the rest of the meet.”