Gold Coast - Poster-girl
Sally Pearson dealt the Commonwealth Games a major blow by pulling out
with an Achilles' injury on Thursday, as competition got under way with
dramatic scenes in the swimming pool.
Australia's Pearson, the 100m hurdles world champion and a Gold Coast
resident, said she was in tears when she realised she needed to
withdraw, but added: "My health comes first."
The former Olympic champion, 31, is the face of the Games, but she
said a long-standing Achilles' problem flared up two days ago and left
her unable to clear hurdles in training.
"Of course, I did everything I possibly could. I left no stone
unturned to get out here and race for Australia in the 100m hurdles and
the 4x100m relay," Pearson said.
"Everyone knows how much of a competitor I am and how much I love running for my country and my team-mates.
"I know I have a lot of fans who were wanting to watch me race. But
for me, it is about my health and I want to go to Tokyo (Olympics) in
Pearson's announcement made for a gloomy start to the Games, which
formally opened with a vibrant ceremony in the beachside city late on
Flora Duffy won the opening gold medal, in the women's triathlon,
becoming Bermuda's first female medallist and lifting the tiny territory
top of the day-one medals table.
Henri Schoeman left England's Alistair and Jonny Brownlee, the
Olympic gold and silver-medallists, trailing as the South African won
the men's triathlon ahead of Australia's Jacob Birtwhistle.
In weightlifting, Malaysia's Muhammad Azroy Hazalwa set the Games'
first Commonwealth record with a total of 261kg to win the men's 56kg
class, a result he celebrated by dancing and doing a lap of honour of
the lifting area.
But there was controversy in the outdoor Southport pool when
defending champion Ben Proud of England was disqualified from the men's
50m butterfly heats for a false start.
Proud's error, which prompted an appeal by the England team, lifted
the hopes of South Africa's Chad le Clos, who lagged the Englishman in
But the 2012 Olympic butterfly gold medallist, who is attempting to
become the most decorated athlete in Games history, said he would rather
finish second than win a race that was missing its strongest swimmer.
"Absolutely, I'd rather come second - straight up," le Clos told
"I'd rather come second to somebody that deserves to win, but we'll
see what happens."
Elsewhere, Olympic champion Mack Horton was fastest into the men's
400m freestyle final, where he stands to become the first Australian
winner since Ian Thorpe in 2002.
Australia's Ariarne Titmus, 17, was quickest in the women's 200m
freestyle heats, while 2010 and 2014 winner Hannah Miley of Scotland led
the timings in the 400m individual medley.