NAIROBI, Kenya, October 5- Jason Dunford has qualified for Wednesday’s 50m men’s butterfly final at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
Dunford cruised through his heats at the Dr. S.P. Mukherjee Swimming Stadium winning heat 6 in a time of 23.61 seconds and holding off South Africa’s Mark Roland Schoeman in the second semi final to win in a time of 23.45 seconds.
The athletics programme also gets underway on Wednesday with former World Champion Eliud Kipchoge spearheading Kenya’s challenge in the men’s 5000m final.
Meanwhile, Australia were denied a clean sweep of golds on day two of the swimming competition, which was dominated by a fistful of fast and furious 50m races.
On-form Fran Halsall gave England its first swimming gold in the 50m butterfly, which was immediately followed by world champion and world record holder Liam Tancock’s win in the 50m backstroke.
Robbie Renwick gave Scotland its first swimming gold in a closely-fought men’s 200m freestyle while South Africa’s Natalie du Toit won the women’s 50m freestyle S9 category race, retaining the title for the third straight Games.
But Australia — the dominant force in Commonwealth swimming — still carried off nine medals, taking their overall tally in the six-day competition to 14.
After three on Monday, the country’s only gold on Tuesday came from prospect Leiston Pickett in the women’s 50m breaststroke, who described her achievement as "fantastic".
Gold Coast swimmer Pickett, 18, was the fastest qualifier and is a rising star of the Australia team. She won silver at the recent Pan Pacifics and has been touted as a successor to teammate "lethal" Leisel Jones.
Her victory robbed 25-year-old Jones not only of the Commonwealth title but a potential breaststroke hattrick in her third Games.
Jones said she was happy with silver. England’s Kate Haywood prevented a repeat of an Aussie one-two-three in Melbourne four years ago.
"One-two-three would have been nice but it’s OK," said Jones. "There was a bit of pressure on us to get it. We still got one and two."
In the women’s 50m butterfly, Australia’s Marieke Guehrer and Emily Seebohm took silver and bronze while Kenrick Monk and Thomas Fraser-Holmes finished behind Renwick in the 200m free.
Hayden Stoeckel and Ashley Delaney trailed Tancock in silver and bronze while Annabelle Williams clinched second spot in the S9 race.
Tuesday also saw a thrilling contest in the men’s 100m breastroke.
Australia’s Christian Sprenger laid down the gauntlet to his teammate and rival Brenton Rickard, setting a new Commonwealth best of 1:00.61 in his morning heat.
But New Zealand’s Glenn Snyders lowered Sprenger’s record in the first semi-final to 1:00.55, only to see Sprenger take the time down to 1:00.45 in his race just minutes later.
The 24-year-old from Brisbane pulled South Africa’s Cameron Van Der Burgh under Snyder’s previous best, setting up a three-way tussle for gold in Wednesday’s final. World record holder Rickard qualified seventh fastest.
Old rivals Geoff Huegill of Australia and South Africa’s Roland Schoeman both qualified for the 50m butterfly final but behind Kenya’s Jason Dunford — a World Championships finalist — who was fastest.
The race looks like a fight between Dunford, Huegill and Schoeman with Australian duo Mitchell Patterson and Andrew Lauterstein possible challengers for a podium spot and Papua New Guinea’s Ryan Pini not far off the pace.
Australia’s Alicia Coutts is line to add to her gold in the 200m individual medley after finishing quickest in the 100m freestyle semi-final, which sees teammate Seebohm and England’s Halsall the main challengers.
Seebohm, who has been entered for eight events and was touted to win six golds, has so far had to contend with silver and bronze.
But she is in pole position for her strongest event, the 100m backstroke, and set a new Games record in the semi-final of 1:00.28.
England’s world record holder at the event, Gemma Spofforth, qualified sixth fastest but there was no place for her friend and rival Lizzie Simmonds, whom she beat in the European Championships in Budapest in August.