Olympic champ Horton joins Thorpedo with Commonwealth gold

Olympic champion Mack Horton became Australia’s first 400 meters freestyle winner at the Commonwealth Games since the great Ian Thorpe with a strong victory on Thursday. Horton swam a perfectly judged race to reel in team-mate Jack McLoughlin and England’s James Guy to win gold in three minutes 43.76 seconds. Horton tracked the leading duo in the first half of the race before making his charge in the final 150m. Horton, who upset Chinese defending champion Sun Yang to snatch gold at Rio two years ago, joined five-time Olympic champion Thorpe, who was the last Australian man to win the 400m free in Manchester in 2002.

Fittingly, Thorpe presented Horton with his gold medal at the podium presentation. “Good start, day one to get a gold for Australia and hopefully we keep it going,” Horton said. “It’s good. Just swimming in front of the home crowd is unreal. I probably feel more emotion here than in Rio (2016 Olympic Games) because the whole crowd is cheering for you. “That didn’t happen so much in Rio. Ten thousand people cheering for you is pretty unreal.” It was Horton’s third career Commonwealth Games medal after winning 4x200m freestyle gold and 1,500m freestyle silver in Glasgow in 2014.

Canada’s Taylor Ruck upset the fancied Australians Ariarne Titmus and defending champion Emma McKeon to win the 200m freestyle gold. Ruck set a new Games record of 1:54.81 to deny the fast-closing Titmus by just four-hundredths of a second in a desperate finish, with McKeon taking bronze. The 17-year-old Titmus is the rising star of Australian swimming after becoming the first Australian woman in 14 years to complete the 200m/400m/800m freestyle treble at the selection trials last month, while McKeon was a four-time gold medallist at Glasgow in 2014.

Earlier, England’s Aimee Wilmott denied Hannah Miley a historic third consecutive 400m individual medley gold with a thrilling victory in the night’s first final. Wilmott, beaten by Miley in the 2014 Glasgow final, fought back tenaciously in the final freestyle leg to pip the Scot by 0.26secs with Australia’s Blair Evans third. “I’ve been second almost every single time,” Wilmott said. “I’ve raced against Hannah in every meet and I’ve been second every time. I knew that this time it could have been me if I just swam the race a little bit better.”

Miley was 0.03secs ahead heading into the final leg but Wilmott finished strongly for the gold medal. Miley, 28, was bidding to become the first Scot to claim three consecutive golds in the same event at the Commonwealth Games after winning gold at Delhi 2010 and Glasgow 2014.

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