Polarising swimmer Nick D’Arcy flopped instead of flying as other Australians endured a farcical opening to competition at the Delhi Commonwealth Games.
While rising star Emily Seebohm opened her punishing pool campaign in style, D’Arcy was inconsolable after his dream of sporting redemption sank.
He was at a loss to explain failing to qualify for a 50m butterfly final he was expected to win.
His confusion was matched by Australia’s boxers at a nonsensical weigh-in, while the nation’s gold seeking netballers lodged more goals than the number of spectators who watched them trump Samoa.
D’Arcy, dumped from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and last year’s world titles after his brutal assault on former team member Simon Cowley, could finish only ninth fastest in the 50m `fly heats.
“I came here hoping I could win gold for my country and that dream has been cut short,” D’Arcy said.
“It has been a big couple of years so to get cut down so early is pretty disappointing.”
In contrast, 18-year-old Seebohm, who could win eight medals in Delhi, cruised into Monday night’s final of the 200m individual medley – despite a technical error briefly listing her as disqualified.
Compatriot Alicia Coutts was fastest qualifier for the same final, while Ryan Napolean, who missed a chunk of training due to a doping ban for using wrongly labelled asthma medication, was the quickest qualifier for Monday night’s 400m freestyle final.
Australian duo Kylie Palmer and Blair Evans topped qualifying for the 200m women’s freestyle final and Australia’s 4x100m freestyle relay team also topped the heats.
The evening swim finals offer five of the eight gold medals on Monday, the others in the men’s team gymnastics and two at the weightlifting.
But the first day of competition began in ludicrous fashion which mirrored shambolic preparations for the most expensive Games ever held.
Australian boxers were weighed on scales which issued readings 1.4kg heavier than reality – many headed for saunas or runs around the athletes village to shed surplus weight they never had.
“I thought last year when I witnessed a bloke in Victoria win a fight with one arm I had seen it all, but this even tops that,”
Australia’s assistant boxing coach Don Abnett said after the weigh-in was abandoned and rescheduled for Tuesday.
Australia’s netballers thrashed world No.9 Samoa 76-39 before just 58 legitimate spectators.
“Netball is not that huge in India so I can’t imagine the crowd improving much, but we don’t care,” shooter Cath Cox said.
“If we win a gold medal in front of a man and a dog, that’s fine with me.”
Ghost town crowds were also at other venues as thousands of spectator seats remained vacant.