Australia rediscovered their winning feeling on day nine of the Commonwealth Games as Kurtis Marschall successfully defended his gold medal in the men’s pole vault to conclude a day on which the nation added a further nine golds to their tally.
While Australia stalled on day eight in Birmingham, the golds came with a rush from early until late on Saturday, moving onto 59 in the medal table, nine ahead of nearest rivals England who reached the half century mark with two days of competition remaining.
Marschall joined the great Steve Hooker – the man who inspired him to take up the sport – in winning back-to-back pole vault titles after clearing 5.70m to beat the English duo of Adam Hague and Harry Coppell, who took silver and bronze respectively.
Earlier Ollie Hoare evoked memories of Australian legend Herb Elliott with a remarkable last stride triumph in the men’s 1500 metres to end a 64-year drought in the race. The 25-year-old timed his run to perfection at Alexander Stadium when setting a new Games record of 3:30.12.
Jemima Montag started the Australian momentum in the 10km walk, crediting her resilience to the genetics she inherited from her grandmother Judith, a holocaust survivor. A gold medallist in the 20km walk on the Gold Coast four years ago, she put in a title-winning performance in a race confined to the track and to 10km on Saturday.
Montag wears a gold bracelet honouring her grandmother, who died shortly before last year’s Tokyo Olympics. With an aunt, she went through her old love letters after the Tokyo Olympics, having them translated, to piece together more about her grandmother’s extraordinary resilience.
“In some letters and journal entries, she wrote about just trying to make it through the next hour and next day, and [to] meet her dad at the gate with a piece of bread,” she said.
“What I take from that is … she teaches me to take one step at a time and it also puts things into perspective. Towards the end of the Holocaust, they marched through snow and cold for days on end in little sandals and hardly any clothing. She and her sister took waistbands and tied their wrists together and said, ‘We are getting through this together or not at all’.”
Melissa Wu is someone used to combining well. Competing in her fifth Commonwealth Games, the diving champion added another remarkable flourish to her resume by partnering Charli Petrov, a 14-year-old who is half the age of Wu, to gold in the 10m synchronised platform event. Maddison Keeney and Anabelle Smith also performed beautifully, twisting and turning and landing their dives perfectly to beat a talented field in the 3m synchronised springboard.
On the bowling green in Leamington Spa, Ellen Ryan and Kristina Krstic won a thriller and were later joined by Aaron Wilson, who was a dominant 21-3 victor over Northern Ireland’s Gary Kelly. “It’s absolutely amazing to get the job done. I’m over the moon at the moment,” Wilson said.
At Arena Birmingham, Alexandra Kiroi-Bogatyreva completed a full set of medals for the Games with a gold medal in the clubs final of the rhythmic gymnastics while in table tennis Yang Qian won gold in the women’s 6-10 class when too strong for compatriot Lei Lina in the final. There was also cause for joy in team events as well, with several medals to be decided in the final two days of competition.
The Diamonds defeated England in the netball and will play Jamaica, their conquerors in a pool game on Thursday, in the final on Sunday, while Australia’s cricketers will clash with India in a blockbuster final at Edgbaston Stadium after proving too strong for New Zealand.
Both beach volleyball teams will vie for gold after strong semi-final performances. So, too, the men’s hockey team, who have progressed to the decider on Monday.
But amid the joy there were some disappointments. Eleanor Patterson claimed the high jump world championship a fortnight ago, but had to settle for a silver medal after jumping a height of 1.92m, three centimetres from the gold.
The difficult tour experienced by sprinter Rohan Browning continued when he tripped and fell in a heat of the 4x100m relay, ending Australia’s hopes of success.