Three heartwarming Australian success stories lit up the Commonwealth Games on Friday as besieged Delhi organisers were blasted for their blundering and inexperience.
Australia won six more swimming golds with Geoff Huegill and Meagen Nay succeeding against the odds while Simplice Ribouem took weightlifting gold, four years after claiming refugee status in the country.
Huegill powererd to victory in the men’s 100m butterfly, 12 years after he first won the title and six years after he gave up the sport.
“It just goes to show that there is still hope for all the old buggers out there,” said the 31-year-old.
After retirement, Huegill’s weight ballooned and he had to shed a staggering 45kg to get back in the squad.
Nay won the women’s 200m backstroke, a remarkable victory after she withdrew from last year’s World Championships following the death of her brother in a car crash.
The 22-year-old’s father, who won gold for Australia at the 1974 Games in Christchurch, also died in a car accident.
“After Rome, a lot of people doubted me and I nearly gave it away, so I went out there tonight trying to prove those people wrong,” said Nay.
Breaststroke star Leisel Jones retained her 100m crown. She won the 200m earlier this week and has now won both events at the last three Games.
Schoolgirl Yolane Kukla — Australia’s youngest swimmer for 24 years — took the 50m freestyle at the age of just 15 years and nine days while Alicia Coutts added a fourth gold with the victorious 4x100m freestyle relay team.
The Aussies didn’t have it all their own way in the pool with England’s Liam Tancock, Rebecca Adlington and James Goddard all getting their second golds.
Ribouem, who switched allegiance from Cameroon after competing in the last Games in Melbourne in 2006, won the 85kg weightlifting title and dedicated his title to fellow new Australians.
“This win is for all migrants, for all refugees in Australia,” said Ribouem.
On the track, Kenyan women strode to the 1,500m and 10,000m titles as Amantle Montsho won Botswana’s first-ever gold medal in the 400m.
Olympic champion Nancy Langat breezed to the 1,500m title while compatriot Grace Momanyi took the 10,000m.
The action followed Australia’s Sally Pearson being stripped of the 100m gold she won on Thursday for a false start, with Nigeria’s Osayemi Oludamola elevated to first.
Pearson was about to receive her gold medal when she heard she had been stripped of the title and Commonwealth Games Federation president Mike Fennell admitted the situation was handled badly by local officials.
“It was a major communication blunder,” he said.
Fennell was in combative mood on Friday as he also feared that delays in negotiations over access to the airspace over New Delhi could seriously compromise television coverage of the road cycling and marathon events.
“Clearance should have been gained, but it’s inexperience of holding major events,” he said.
Elsewhere on the busiest day of the Games with 42 golds decided, Australia completed their domination of track cycling, ending the week with a record-breaking 12 titles out of 14.
Cameron Meyer led the charge with a third title as Australia’s formidable endurance riders took gold and silver in the men’s 25km scratch race.
In the team sprint, Dan Ellis, bedridden two days ago with a stomach bug, recovered to gift the Australians a perfect start as he and teammates Jason Niblett and Scott Sunderland powered to victory.
The only sour note for the Australians was their failure to pick up a medal in the women’s 3000m individual pursuit, which went to Alison Shanks of New Zealand.
India too continued to excel with their women’s wrestling squad celebrating their most successful day in history.
The host nation took two golds and a silver with Anita (eds note: one name only) taking the 67kg and Alka Tomar the 59kg.
India also shone in shooting where they won three golds to take the country’s tally to 10.
World champion Nicol David added an elusive Commonwealth Games squash title to her five World Opens while England’s Nick Matthew grabbed the men’s gold.
As expected, Malaysia took gold in the team badminton while Singapore romped to victory in the team table tennis.