Aussies on a roll

Memorable meet… gold medallist Leisel Jones (left) of Australia jokes with compatriot Samantha Marshall, who won the silver, after the 100m breaststroke final.-AP Memorable meet… gold medallist Leisel Jones (left) of Australia jokes with compatriot Samantha Marshall, who won the silver, after the 100m breaststroke final.

If there were any notions — based, of course, on recent results — that the mighty Australians would find the going tough, they were all cleared once the competitions began. The pretenders, England, Canada and South Africa, all fell by the wayside against the Aussie onslaught. By A. Vinod.

Australia's continued dominance, a clutch of breathtaking-performances, a mysterious illness and an unfortunate incident involving the crowd were the features of the aquatics competitions of the Commonwealth Games.

Perhaps the only major discipline that wasn't affected so much by pullouts when compared with athletics and cycling, the competitions at the Dr. S. P. Mukerjee pool were the main focus of the 12-day Games. And at the outset, if there were any notions — based, of course, on recent results — that the mighty Australians would find the going tough, they were all cleared as the pretenders, England, Canada and South Africa, all fell by the wayside.

Australia, a super power in world swimming, finished with a tally of 47 medals (20 golds, 14 silvers and 13 bronzes) from 38 events. And this was largely due to the brilliance of its women swimmers led by Leisel Jones.

Jones made the Delhi edition a memorable one by writing a new chapter in the history of the Commonwealth Games. She became the first athlete to win the same two events three times in a row, registering victories in the 100m and 200m breaststroke. It was definitely the defining moment of the swimming competition at the Games.

Alicia Coutts won more gold medals than anyone in CWG 2010 with a haul of five, of which two came from the three relay events that the Aussies won.

Emily Seebohm won a medal each in the eight events that she participated in, including the gold in the 100m backstroke where she set a Games record. And with the young Yolane Kukla (50m freestyle), Kylie Palmer (200m freestyle), Sophie Edington (50m back stroke), Meagen Nay (200m back stroke), Leiston Pickett (50m butterfly) and Jessicah Schipper (200m butterfly) all chipping in, only four out of the 19 events eluded the all-conquering Aussies' grasp.

Two of these events, as expected, were won by the double Olympic champion, Rebecca Adlington, who proved her superiority in the 400m and 800m freestyle events.

Winning pair. Canada's Ross Reuben (left) and Despatie Alexandre pose with their gold medals after winning the men's 3m synchronised springboard diving.-PTI

Fran Halsall, a major victim of the mysterious illness that affected both the English and the Australian swimmers, came up with a brilliant effort in the 50m butterfly event to push the World champion, Marieke Guerher of Australia, to the second spot.

Hannah Miley kept the Scottish flag flying by maintaining her reputation as the season's best performer in the 400m individual medley.

In Melbourne four years ago, Australia's male swimmers contributed only one gold medal to their team's tally. But in Delhi, they accounted for five although three of them were from the relays.

The triumph of Geoff Huegill, who famously lost a whopping 45kg while making a comeback after quitting the scene in 2002, in the 100m butterfly was undoubtedly one of the high points of the Aussie campaign in the men's section, though not to the extent of overshadowing the superb effort of Brent Hayden in the 100m freestyle. The Canadian swimmer achieved the first sub-48 seconds of the world in more than a year while winning the 100m freestyle that complemented the 50m gold he had won earlier.

England made a clean sweep of the backstroke events with World champion Liam Tancock scoring a double (50m and 100m) and the season's best performer, James Goddard, claiming the 200m gold.

South Africa's Cameron van der Burgh shut out almost everyone while winning a sprint double in breaststroke before Brenton Rickard of Australia out-kicked the field to claim the 200m gold.

Cameron's team-mate Chad de Clos too made hay, winning the 200m butterfly and the 400m individual medley, while Jason Dunford of Kenya took home the 50m butterfly gold.

James Goddard completed a double by winning the 200m individual medley gold.

Ryan Cochrane of Canada proved his class by swimming to glory in the 400m and 1500m freestyle events.

Meanwhile Ronald Schoeman of South Africa was caught up in a controversy for allegedly making a racist comment against the crowd after a false start in the 50m freestyle semifinals. Thankfully, the episode did not go out of hand due to the magnanimity of the organisers.

The less said about the Indian swimmers the better, though Virdhawal Khade and Sandeep Sejwal did figure in a couple of finals.

In diving, Alexandre Despatie of Canada was simply breathtaking as he won three gold medals. The tussle between Tom Daley of England and Matthew Mitcham of Australia in the 10m platform was engrossing.

Despatie won the 1m, 3m springboard and the 3m springboard synchronised titles, the last one in the company of Reuben Ross.

Canada was also on top in the synchronised swimming events, with Marie-Pier Boudreau Gagnon coming up with a standout show in the solo event and then taking the duet gold in partnership with Chloe Issac. Little wonder that the sparse crowd was left speechless.