Mitch’s move allows Clyde to shine
MITCH Larkin's selfless call to jettison the 400m individual medley from his packed Games program not only ensured a gold medal for himself on Friday night night it opened the door for squadmate Clyde Lewis to step forward as a new hero in the pool.
Larkin was set to swim five individual events at the Games but with just 19 minutes between the 400m medley final and his pet 100m backstroke on Friday's program, he ditched the longer event to concentrate on gaining redemption.
Officials called on Lewis to swim the event and he responded, carving more than two seconds from his personal best to win gold in an effort that took so much energy he all but collapsed in a poolside interview.
"I was red-lining it about halfway through the freestyle," Lewis said. "I don't remember that much of the last 50m."
Attacking the race like an animal is a fitting response from a man whose father named him after the orang-utan in the movie Every Which Way But Loose.
Lewis was still feeling the effects of the race 20 minutes after he swam but he insisted he was feeling no pain.
"I feel great now," Lewis said after completing a lap of honour at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre.
Lewis won the 200m medley at the Games trials but decided against swimming the 400m, preferring to concentrate on the freestyle events.
But when Larkin pulled out of the event, he jumped at the chance to tackle another swim in front of his home crowd.
"It's quite an honour that they said they wanted me to do it," he said, describing his relationship with the gruelling event as "love-hate".
"No one loves it but you've just got to step up sometimes and do it, you can't run away from it forever."
Larkin took another step towards banishing his swimming demons when he won the 100m - the event in which he is a former world champion.
Deciding he wanted to concentrate on getting back to the top of the tree in the backstroke events, Larkin stepped down from the medley and had no regrets after claiming gold in 53.18, ahead of fellow Aussie Bradley Woodward.
"You don't get moments like this too often," Larkin said after thrilling 10,000 fans who were more than happy to sit through the rain to watch an Aussie gold rush.
"There are plenty of Aussies in the stands tonight. I want to get my backstroke back to world-class swimming and I'd love to do that on the Gold Coast."
McKeon stays on track for gold clean sweep
EMMA McKeon's reputation as a medal machine had just one chink before Friday night's rousing gold shut down forever the question mark over her lack of solo victories.
Before her composed win in the 100m butterfly on the Gold Coast, McKeon's decorated swimming career spanned 23 medals at Olympic, Commonwealth Games and world championships but with just a single individual gold four years ago in Glasgow.
Gold Coaster McKeon, 23, took care of that by finding a perfect match for the superb gold and world record she shared with the 4 x 100m freestyle girls 24 hours earlier.
More than that, McKeon (56.78 sec), training partner Maddie Groves (57.19) and Perth's Brianna Throssell (57.30) produced the first Aussie sweep in the pool with a one-two-three finish in the sprint.
The unassuming McKeon has now pocketed three medals from three events to stay on track for a swoop of six in all just a few kilometres down the road from where she has dedicated herself to training at Griffith University under master coach Michael Bohl.
"Doing this in front of a home crowd is all I wanted to do," McKeon said on pooldeck to Channel Seven.
Groves was thrilled: "It took a lot to come back but absolutely to see Australia first, second and third is the best."
Bohl worked his magic to coax Groves, 22, into racing last month's trials underprepared after a draining 2017 had taken it's toll.
She defied all the turmoil of 2017 when floored by surgery and six-months under a cloud for allegedly not updating her whereabouts data for random drug-testing.
It was sheer quality from Groves, an Olympic silver medallist who was no sure thing to even qualify for the Games on the Gold Coast because of training disruptions.
Last October, swimming's world body FINA ruled there was no rules breach and she was fully compliant with her whereabouts data in a San Diego dorm for random testers who failed to go past the front desk of the building or phone her.
Vindication did not come before she had been put through six months of angst in a fight for her reputation.
Surgery for endometriosis late last year stalled training but rekindling her love of swimming under Bohl on the Gold Coast has worked wonders for her.
The lure of a Games in her home state was always the magnetic target and it has delivered a tonic for her.
McKeon last night joined Petria Thomas, a three-time Games gold medallist in the event, and Lisa Curry on the roll call of Commonwealth 100m butterfly champions.
She needed a cortizone injection to settle a shoulder niggle earlier this year, wasn't at her best at the trials a month ago but showed her champion qualities in the 'fly.
Yesterday was a relative breeze with just a single race for the day compared to the five races that left her fatigued on Thursday.
It was a wonderful moment to savour for her family because both father Ron and mother Susie competed as swimmers at the last Commonwealth Games held in Queensland in 1982.
Their guidance has made sure she is well-balanced in life beyond the chlorine of the pool.
"Rather than what they've taught me as a swimmer, it's what they have taught me as a person that has helped me the most,,' McKeon said.
"They've always taught me that swimming is something we do, not who we are...but enjoy it to the full."
- Jim Tucker