GOLD COAST, Australia, Apr 8 – Jamaica’s Yohan Blake had the words of Usain Bolt ringing in his ears as he dominated the sprints on day one of the Commonwealth Games athletics on Sunday.
Despite world athletics chief Sebastian Coe slamming the “obsession” with Bolt, Blake said he was inspired by the now-retired Jamaican showman as he qualified fastest for the 100 metres final.
“Usain told me, ‘Yohan, you’ve got to win or else you can’t go back home,” said Blake, adding that Bolt also posted a touching message on Instagram saying: “I believe in you.”
Blake eased to 10.06sec in his semi-final to top the timesheets ahead of England’s Adam Gemili, the 2014 silver-medallist, while English sprinter Asha Philip was fastest into the women’s final.
Coe earlier insisted that athletics had plenty of talent to remain in a healthy state after Bolt, the eight-time Olympic champion, 100m and 200m world record-holder and 2014 Commonwealth relay gold-medallist.
“Are we going to replace Usain Bolt? Probably not, because you don’t replace Muhammad Ali,” said Coe.
“But Marvin Hagler and Manny Pacquiao and (Julio Cesar) Chavez and the great boxers came through.”
As the athletics competition opened, Australia’s Dane Bird-Smith won the men’s race walk, but Claire Tallent was left in tears after she was disqualified while leading the women’s race. Fellow Aussie Jemima Montag took gold.
Englishman Nick Miller hurled a Games-record 80.26m to win the hammer throw and Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei, the world silver-medallist, won the men’s 5,000m in 13min 50.83sec.
In the pool, Cate Campbell won the 50m butterfly to lead Australia to a three-gold haul, but there was a major shock when Scotland’s Duncan Scott produced a thunderous finish to upset a heavyweight field in the 100m freestyle.
“I’m speechless to be honest, and that doesn’t happen often. The main thing there was to execute my own race,” said Scott, 20.
– ‘No prima donnas’ –
Australia’s track cyclists, resurgent after their 2016 Olympics flop, ended the competition with another three golds and were only denied a clean sweep when Scotland’s Mark Stewart won the 40km points race.
“There has been a lot of work behind the scenes, but we have such a great squad,” said Stephanie Morton, who won the women’s keirin.
“We’ve got no prima donnas or people who are hard work. That environment is really flourishing on the track. We get behind each other and support each other. And that internal competition, it’s working wonders.”
Elsewhere, Olympic champion Max Whitlock of England stumbled to sixth in the men’s floor gymnastics and finished second in the pommel horse as his campaign fell flat.
Steven Kari slammed the floor in delight and hurled his belt into the crowd as he won the men’s 94kg weightlifting to earn Papua New Guinea their first gold of the Games.
Australia’s Dane Sampson clinched victory in the 10m air rifle — but only just — despite producing his worst score on his final shot of the gold-medal shootout.
Saina Nehwal beat Singapore’s Yeo Jia Min to clinch a 3-1 victory and put India into the mixed-teams badminton final against Lee Chong Wei’s Malaysia.
And India also upset Singapore to win the women’s team table tennis — depriving them of the title for the first time since the sport was introduced to the Games in 2002.