English triathlete Jodie Stimpson wins first gold of Commonwealth Games

Jodie Stimpson

GLASGOW, July 24: England’s Jodie Stimpson won the opening gold of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on Thursday on a day when the multi-sport event was hit by the withdrawal of athletics legend Mo Farah. Stimpson, a silver medal winner in the World Triathlon Series in 2013, sprinted clear with 400 metres remaining of the final 10km run to win a thrilling race that started with a 1.5km swim in and a 40km cycle around Strathclyde Loch.

Canada’s Kirsten Sweetland claimed silver, with England’s Vicky Holland taking bronze in warm, sunny conditions. Action got underway also in the pool where top home hope for a gold medal, Michael Jamieson was upstaged by countryman Ross Murdoch in qualifying for the 200 metres breaststroke final.

Murdoch smashed the Commonwealth Games record by over two seconds in a time of 2mins 08.78secs with Jamieson and Calum Tait completing an all-Scottish top three in qualifying. “Watching the crowd go wild and I just wanted that for myself and we did it, so it is something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” said the 20-year-old Murdoch.

Scotland’s Hannah Miley also had the home crowd in raptures in the first heat of the event by breaking her own Commonwealth record in the women’s 400m individual medley in a time of 4mins 38.27 secs. Commonwealth Games record times were tumbling all morning at the Tollcross International Swimming Centre as Jamaica’s Ali Atkinson went fastest in the women’s 50m breaststroke in a Games record time of 30.49secs.

The immediacy of the action took some of the sting out of Farah’s withdrawal which rocked the Games just as they got underway. The 5,000 and 10,000 metres Olympic champion, 31, was recently laid low by illness and has decided to pull out of the Games in order to work on his fitness ahead of next month’s European Championships in Zurich.

“I have taken the tough decision to withdraw from the Commonwealth Games,” Farah said in a statement released by Team England. “I really wanted to add the Commonwealth titles to my Olympic and World Championships, but the event is coming a few weeks too soon for me as my body is telling me it’s not ready to race yet. Best wishes to my fellow athletes in Glasgow.

In total, 21 golds will be won on Thursday. As well as four in the pool, there are four up for grabs on the first day of track cycling at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome. Bradley Wiggins was back on the track for the first time since 2008 and aiming to win his first ever Commonwealth gold in the 400m team pursuit for England.

Six-time Commonwealth Games medallist Anna Meares began her record-setting quest with the 500m time trial as the Australian bids to become the first competitor to win a track cycling medal at four Commonwealth Games.

- India eye weightlifting gold -

New Zealand will be the team to beat in the men’s team sprint event. The Kiwis riders, including Eddie Dawkins and Ethan Mitchell, go into the event as favourites after their triumph in the world championships in Colombia and will want to go one better than the silver they claimed in Dehli in 2010.

They will face competition from traditional powers Australia and England that contains sprint king Jason Kenny. The Brownlee brothers, Alistair and Jonathan, are betting on an intense sibling rivalry in their drive for a top-of-the-podium finish in the men’s triathlon.

Alistair Brownlee will be out to add Commonwealth gold to his Olympic gold won in London in 2012, with triumphs in the World Triathlon Series in 2011 and 2013 sandwiching that victory.

Indian lifters are expected to be at the forefront on the first day’s action in the weightlifting. There are also five titles to be decided in judo and one in rhythmic gymnastics while preliminaries begin in field hockey, lawn bowls, netball, squash, table tennis and badminton.