MICHAEL Jamieson gave further proof that his recent heart scare is now firmly behind him last night with a storming victory in the 200-metre breaststroke on day one of the Duel In The Pool.
A crowd of around 2,000 at the venue that will host the Commonwealth Games swimming programme next summer cheered the Glaswegian home to a dramatic win, as he clawed his way ahead of his European Allstars team-mate Marco Koch in the final few metres.
With the first three places in each race counting towards the total points in the two-day short-course competition between Europe and the United States of America, Jamieson and Koch’s one-two contributed to an overnight lead of 68-54 for the home team. In terms of the team score, it did not matter if Jamieson got five points and Koch three or the other way round. But the Scot showed his keen competitive spirit by fighting back over the final 25m to claim victory by seven-hundredths of a second.
It was a result that inspired the crowd to fever pitch, and gave both the spectators and Jamieson himself a foretaste of the frenzy with which any home success next year will be greeted.
“This has been amazing,” the 25-year-old said. “I can’t really believe how many people have come out to watch.
“This is as close to home as it gets for me. It might sound like a cliché, but the Commonwealth Games next year really is a once-in-a-lifetime job.
“That is what I am aiming for and this has given me a real sample of what the atmosphere is going to be like when that comes around. The coverage we are getting at the moment is amazing and it’s a great thrill to win.
“I knew Marco was going to be tough to beat, because myself and him were both on the podium at the European Short-Course Championships last weekend.”
Jamieson was Great Britain’s highest achiever at the 2012 Olympics with a silver medal behind Daniel Gyurta of Hungary, and was in the same position again in the European Short-Course Championships. That latter second place came just a few days after he needed treatment for an irregular heartbeat, which he learned had been brought on by the incredible intensity of his training regime. Fortunately, the problem was quickly addressed without the need for lengthy rest.
Hungary’s absence from the Commonwealth has not escaped Jamieson’s attention, and if he maintains anything like this level of form he will be one of the hottest favourites for Commonwealth gold.
His immediate priority, of course, is to gain more points for Europe in the 100m breastroke this afternoon, when the event resumes just after two o’clock.
Europe got the meet off to a near-perfect start last night with first and second places in the opening race, the women’s 400-metre individual medley – but there was no podium place for Scotland’s Hannah Miley. Spain’s Mireia Belmonte, so often a fierce rival of Miley, was in command from the start, and was followed home by Britain’s Aimee Willmott.
Miley closed well over the freestyle leg, but could not haul in the USA’s Caitlin Leverenz, and came in just over a second behind. A clean sweep would have been ideal, but even so, with five points for the winner, three for second and one for third, Europe had got off to an encouraging 8-1 lead.
Any notion that the home team would continue that domination was soon dispelled, as in the next race, the men’s 400m, Conor Dwyer and Chase Kalisz took first and second for the USA, with Spain’s David Verraszto in third for Europe.
But by the time the next Scot entered the pool – Craig McNally in the sixth race, the 200m backstroke – Europe had regained the lead with two big wins.
The Edinburgh swimmer was unable to help extend that lead, however, coming fourth out of four in a strong field. Miley also finished out of the points in her second race, the 200m breaststroke, won by America’s Micah Lawrence.
Robbie Renwick, the last of the four Scots to take to the pool, was also unable to contribute to what was becoming an impressive overnight total for the Europeans.
He was seventh in the 400m freestyle, won by Michael Klueh of the USA ahead of France’s Yannick Agnel, who had earlier won the 100m freestyle.
Europe took a 14-point lead into the last two races of the evening, the 400m medley relays, in which the winners get seven points and the losers zero. There was therefore a chance for the Americans to end the night all square with two victories, but the relays were split, with the European women claiming their race.
With 16 races to follow today, however, the event is still wide open. The Americans have won the previous two editions against Europe, and also won the first three Duels, when Australia were their opponents.
There are 262 points available over the two days of competition, so the winning team will be the first to reach 131.5 points. If the teams have identical scores at the end of today’s last event, the men’s 400m freestyle relay, there will be a swim-off 4x50m relay with two men and two women in each team. The winning side will earn one point and thus be declared the winner of the meet.