Scotland’s Duncan Scott has come from seemingly out of the clouds to snatch gold from the clutches of more illustrious swimmers, with a star born in the Commonwealth Games pool last night.
For much of the men’s 100m freestyle final, it looked like South Africa’s Chad Le Clos was on course to take out the coveted title, with Australia’s Kyle Chalmers in red-hot pursuit.
Chalmers was just about an inch behind Le Clos as the pair closed in towards the finish.
But unbeknownst to the stars of the show, motoring along stealthily in lane six and gaining pace all the time, a Scottish underdog stretched out an arm to touch on just in front of the stellar pair, who dead-heated for second.
It prompted scenes of jubilation not quite seen at the Gold Coast 2018 pool over the course of the games. Australian victories have been greeted with deafening cheers — but so many of them have been after the host’s swimmers met the expectations that come with favouritism.
“I’m speechless to be honest, and that doesn’t happen often,” Scott said.
“The main thing there was to execute my own race. The boys out there were totally different. I think there were eight different race plans going on. Everyone swims it completely differently.
“In the 100 [freestyle] you’ve got some boys who were incredibly fast in the front in the first 50m, and worked it back on the second. I had to stick to what I’m good at, and that’s bringing it home.
“So I stayed quite composed and let Chad Le Clos go out, and then I tried to hunt him down. I’m very pleased with how I executed.”
Scotland’s moment triggers delirium in Southport
Scott’s victory was the catalyst for something that felt unique. Scottish flags were being thrust back and forth maniacally. British commentators in the media tribunes were jumping up and down like men and women possessed. Heads were in hands. People were screaming.
Whatever dejection Australian fans in the crowd felt was quickly overwhelmed when a sizeable cluster of Scottish fans in the north stand, all clad in blue, held flags aloft as Scotland’s anthem for the Commonwealth Games, Flower of Scotland, rang out during the medal ceremony, with bagpipe accompaniment no less.
Scotland, like England and the other members of the United Kingdom, has its own anthem for the Commonwealth Games, as opposed to the Olympics where they unite as Team Great Britain and sing God Save the Queen.
Here, the lyrics were belted out by the small but elated troupe of Scots and travelled across the stands — the most audible non-Australian rendition of an anthem at the pool.
‘Whoever you put in that pool, I’m the champion’
Scott’s only previous Olympic and world championship medals have come as members of relay teams, with individual medals coming in the European Championships and European Games.
But on the Gold Coast, his 100m freestyle gold sits nicely alongside a third place in the 200m butterfly, and bronzes in both the 4x100m and 4x200m freestyle relays.
“The biggest thing was team Scotland in the pool. We’ve got so much quality, but it’s not really been [shown] through the medal quality that we’ve got,” Scott said.
“It speaks volumes of the quality we’ve got in the pool — it is phenomenal, and if I can be marked by that gold then that’s good for me.”
Scott had several quiet chats with Le Clos — both at the finish and during the medallists’ lap of honour, and lauded the South African swimmer’s legacy.
“Whoever you put in that pool, I’m Commonwealth champion,” Scott said.
“I’ve raced Chad a few times. It’s safe to say he’s come out more times than me on top. He’s beat the GOAT [greatest of all time] of swimming, Michael Phelps. I’m sure he’s going to go on to become a great himself, if he’s not already a great.
“He’s the first person to say congratulations to me. He’s an awesome gentleman and one a sport like swimming really needs. It was good to beat him. He’s an incredible athlete.”