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Laura Halford of Wales competes in the Individual All-Round Final of the Rhythmic Gymnastics event at The Hydro venue at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on July 25. (AFP)
Pickett retains 50m breaststroke title England claim 1st swimming gold

GLASGOW, July 25, (AFP): Benjamin Proud claimed England’s first swimming gold of the Commonwealth Games and set a new Games record of 22:93sec in the process as he won the men’s 50m butterfly on Friday. South African veteran Roland Schoeman took silver with his teammate and 200m butterfly Olympic champion Chad le Clos in third. It was the second time in two days that Proud had beaten the Commonwealth record having also done so in qualifying on Thursday. “I don’t know what to say. I just treated it like any other race, but now tears are almost in my eyes,” said the 19-year-old. And the more experienced Schoeman acknowledged he had been beaten by the better man. “I knew it was going to be tough. Proud is a talented athlete,” said the 34-year-old. “I’m happy to get second.”

 
Meanwhile, Australia’s Leiston Pickett retained her 50m breaststroke Commonwealth Games title on Friday as she edged out Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson in a time of 30:59sec. Corrie Scott increased Scotland’s medal tally in the pool to four as she took bronze. “It’s good to get back on top,” said the 22-year-old Pickett, who becomes the first swimmer to retain a 50m breaststroke Commonwealth title. “I did all I could and reached for the finish. It’s really exciting that I’m still getting the speed I had a few years ago.” Atkinson had set two Commonwealth Games records in qualifying, but despite failing to match those times in the final she still walked away with just Jamaica’s fourth ever Commonwealth swimming medal. Scott delighted the home crowd by keeping Scotland’s momentum in the pool going after a glorious first day of action, including two gold medals, on Thursday.
 
The 20-year-old edged England’s Sophie Taylor by one hundredth of a second and believes home advantage made the difference. “I’ve been working a lot on my strokes. I said at the start that the crowd would make the difference between a fourth and a bronze.” Maddison Elliot sealed Australia’s sixth Commonwealth Games swimming gold medal and set a new world record time in winning the women’s para-sport 100m frestyle S8 on Friday. Elliot bettered American Jessica Long’s previous record from 2012 by three tenths of a second in recording a time of 1min 05:32sec. Stephanie Slater claimed silver for England, whilst Lakeisha Patterson added another medal for Australia with bronze.
 
Chris Walker-Hebborn claimed England’s second swimming gold medal of the Commonwealth Games in a Games record time of 53:12sec in the men’s 100m backstroke on Friday. Australia’s Mitch Larkin was in second, while reigning champion Liam Tancock of England and Josh Beaver of Australia tied for third place. 
 
Meanwhile, Wales were hit by a second doping shock. Welsh 400m hurdler Rhys Williams, son of 1970s Wales and British Lion rugby icon ‘JJ’, was withdrawn from the Games after failing a doping test. It was the second failed doping test to hit the Wales team following that of 800m runner Gareth Warburton last week The 30-year-old Williams, who had been named co-captain of his country’s team and had been due to have run in the 400m hurdles, said he had been left “devastated” by the news of his positive test. “I am utterly devastated about the news of this anti-doping rule violation, which has come as a great shock to me,” he said.
 
England’s Fran Halsall, however, set a new Commonwealth Games record of 24:31sec in qualifying fastest for the semi-finals of the women’s 50m freestyle ahead of Australian sisters Cate and Bronte Campbell on Friday. The Campbell sisters had been part of the Aussie 4x100m freestyle relay team that broke the world record in claiming gold on Thursday and Bronte was first to break the Commonwealth record in the third heat of the day. Scotland’s Ross Murdoch also built on his dream opening day as just over 12 hours after claiming 200m breaststroke gold, he qualified second fastest for the 100m breaststroke semi-finals.
However, it was England’s Adam Peaty who comfortably led the world class field in the 100m breaststroke as he broke the Commonwealth Games record in a time of 59:47sec.
In weightlifting, 16-year-old Nigerian Chika Amalaha won the women’s 53kg gold with the men’s 62kg title to be decided later.
 
The shooting competition got under way with Singapore’s Teo Shun Xie winning the women’s 10m Air Pistol, India’s Abhinav Bindra claimed gold in the men’s 10m Air Rifle while women’s skeet gold was taken by Australia’s Laura Coles. Eight-time Olympic hockey champions India opened their bid for a first Commonwealth men’s gold with a 3-1 win over Wales. New Zealand started their campaign for a third successive netball gold with a nervy 50-47 win over Malawi.
 
Defending four-time champions New Zealand are unperturbed by their unheralded 100 percent success rate at the Commonwealth Games, coach Gordon Tietjens adamant that his squad could win again. The All Blacks have won all four previous Commonwealth sevens tournaments, dating back to the Jonah Lomu-inspired triumph in Kuala Lumpur in 1998, and have since dominated the IRB Sevens World Series of a sport which will be included in the Rio Olympics in 2016. “We have nine players who are new to the Games set-up and a 100 percent record to uphold,” Tietjens said.
 
“That comes with some pressure but we are raring to get going against Canada on Saturday.” Tietjens said the three veterans of his squad, skipper DJ Forbes, Sherwin Stowers and Tim Mikkelson had been crucial in the build-up to the Commonwealths. “We have had a successful week in the Netherlands and training has been going really well since we have arrived in the village,” the veteran coach said. “Forbes, Stowers and Mikkelson have been supporting the new guys really well by managing their distractions off the pitch. “Fatigue is something we are constantly mindful off and we don’t want the guys to tire themselves out walking around the village.”
 
Tietjens admitted that training for rugby sevens was becoming increasingly professional, notably with the inclusion of the sport in the Rio Olympics. “This game is getting more specialised and the conditioning around the athletes is becoming more and more important with each competition, especially after the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games,” he said. Skipper Forbes will be key for New Zealand, the bearded flanker an elemental linking player in both attack and defence. But Forbes said he had had some concerns since arriving in Glasgow — his appearance at a lunch attended by Queen Elisabeth II. “It was pretty casual apart from all the pleasantries before hand. We had a lot of chances to talk to her and get lots of photos,” Forbes said.
 
“I was worried I wouldn’t look presentable with the beard but luckily because it was so casual I got away with it.” New Zealand have been drawn in Pool A alongside Canada, Nigeria and tournament hosts Scotland, who have named star international British and Irish Lion full-back Stuart Hogg and veteran winger Sean Lamont in the squad. Silver medallists four years ago in New Delhi, Australia, and bronze medallists South Africa are top seeds in pools D and B respectively, while other World Series regulars in Samoa, England, Kenya, Wales and Canada will be determined to challenge the dominance of the mighty All Blacks.

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