Australia dominates on Day One of Games

15Jan

As the focus switched to sport after a nightmarish run-up damaged India’s reputation, the Aussies clinched four gold medals, including the men’s team gymnastics title ahead of England and Canada.

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In the pool, they added three more with Kylie Palmer powering her way to victory in the 200m freestyle, Alicia Coutts taking the 200m individual medley crown and their men edging England in the 4x100m freestyle relay.

Canada’s Ryan Cochrane grabbed gold in the men’s 400m freestyle and South Africa’s Chad Le Clos won the men’s 200m butterfly.

But the first gold of the Games belonged to Nigeria’s Augustina Nwaokolo, who stunned India’s Soniya Chanu to win the women’s weightlifting 48kg title.

Nwaokolo,17, set a new Commonwealth record of 175kg after a snatch lift of 77kg and clean and jerk attempt of 98kg, with Chanu taking silver ahead of compatriot Sandhya Rani.

“I’m the happiest person in the world, I’m very proud,” said the teenager. “My next step is the Olympics, to win gold.”

Malaysia’s Amirul Hamizan Ibrahim, meanwhile, won the men’s 56kg weightlifting crown, beating Sukhen Dey and fellow Indian Srinivasa Rao.

While sport took a front seat after a shambolic build-up, the Games’ problems refused to go away with glaringly empty stadiums at the swimming heats, netball, tennis and hockey.

About two million tickets were made available for the multi-sport Games, but rumours have long circulated in the capital that the response has been lacklustre amid delays in finalising the sales network.

There was also farcical scenes at the official boxing weigh-in, which was abandoned after faulty scales showed most of the fighters were too heavy.

Irate coaches demanded the scales be checked after some boxers tried to sweat off weight by using saunas or going for runs only to return and weigh more than before.

Competition manager Lenni Gama initially tried to brush the issue under the carpet, saying: “The scales are perfect”.

But Gama eventually relented with the weigh-in now set for Tuesday morning, just ahead of the opening bouts.

It was the latest crisis at the troubled 11-day Games, which have been dogged by worries over threats of terror attacks, corruption, construction delays, and dengue fever.

The host nation finally found something to cheer about with an epic opening ceremony on Sunday evening, which celebrated the country’s long history as well as its emergence as a powerful global player.

Importantly, it went off without any major glitches.

“Finally, Delhi Dazzles,” screamed the broadsheet Times of India on its front page, while the tabloid Mail Today simply said “Indiaaah!”

But not everyone was happy, with spectators complaining about long queues to get inside the main Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and a lack of food and water available once there.

At the Dr. S.P. Mukherjee Aquatics Complex, Palmer upstaged Wales’ Jaz Carlin and England’s Rebecca Adlington to claim the 200m freestyle title in 1:57.50.

“I am speechless,” she said. “I really have nothing to say. It is an awesome feeling. You can’t get any better than winning a gold medal.”

Her teammate Coutts came home in the 200m individual medley ahead of fellow Australian Emily Seebohm and Canada’s Julia Wilkinson to win in 2:09.70.

Canada’s Cochrane grabbed gold in the men’s 400m freestyle, but was pushed all the way in his 3:48.48 win by Australia’s Ryan Napoleon, who picked up silver, and defending champion Dave Carry from Scotland, in bronze.

Le Clos, meanwhile, got South Africa’s first Delhi gold in the men’s 200m butterfly in a time of 1:56.48, holding off England’s Michael Rock and Canada’s Stefan Hirniak.

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