After suffering a “really bad” 12 months full of hugely damaging injuries, Middlesbrough swimmer Aimee Willmott clinched a remarkable gold in the women’s 400m individual medley, with a mere 0.26 seconds proving to be the difference between her and silver medallist Hannah Miley.
The Scottish athlete was the favourite coming into the championships having been victorious in the last two competitions, however, a huge late effort from Willmott was enough to earn her a first-ever major international gold – and giving her the perfect revenge for just losing out to Miley in 2014.
“After the 12 months I’ve had with two broken ribs, a bashed elbow and knee surgery it was just a huge sigh of relief to get here,” said Willmott “The setbacks were really bad to the point where me and my parents couldn’t even have a conversation because I was just so stressed and I didn’t know what I was doing.
“When you break your ribs, you can’t really do a lot so from swimming twice a day and gym the programme in London closing down and sitting on a sofa for eight weeks was really hard to deal with. I’ve learned a lot, gained a lot of confidence and got the enjoyment back. I’d lost that a little bit before.”
Elsewhere, Olympic and Commonwealth gymnastics medallist Nile Wilson took the first major step on the way to achieving his target of a clean sweep of Commonwealth gold medals, after helping England to their first gold medal of the competition in the team final.
The 22-year-old was in fine form on both the parallel and horizontal bars, contributing to a dominant England performance that saw them beat second-placed Canada by an impressive 10 points.
Wilson’s performance re-emphasises his status as one of the key favourites to grab individual all-around gold on Saturday, having finished with a bronze at Glasgow in 2014.
Another superb team effort saw the Yorkshire cycling pair of Wakefield’s Ollie Wood and Great Ayton’s Charlie Tanfield storm to silver with England in the men’s team pursuit.
The pair, along with team-mates Ethan Hayter and Kian Amadi, were comfortably ahead of third-placed Canada, but would have been hard pressed to catch the winning Australia team, who set a new world record of 3:52.041 on their way to gold.
“To get a medal is great,” Tanfield said. “Fair play to the Aussies, that was ridiculously fast. We didn’t have the best of luck but at the end of the day we can be proud of what we tried to do.”
More cycling success also saw Leeds’s Katy Marchant shake off an illness to clinch bronze in the women’s team sprint, with a late surge seeing her and England team-mate Lauren Bate edge Wales to the medals.
The 25-year-old will now be all geared up for more success today, as she prepares for a long day of individual sprints aiming to clinch another medal.
Despite only taking up the sport at age 22 and competing in her first World Series three years ago, Wetherby’s Jess Learmonth grabbed England’s first medal of the competition after storming to silver in the women’s Triathlon.
The 29-year-old was just ahead as they approached the run but was soon passed by the dominant Bermudan and eventual winner Flora Duffy. Despite being “disappointed” with her run, Learmonth dug in deep to see off Canada’s Joanna Brown and England team-mate Vicky Holland to clinch the silver.
“I had a bit of a dodgy lead-up to this race.” said Learmonth “I was hoping for a bit of a better run so I’m a little disappointed with that but I can’t be disappointed coming away with a silver. I’ve surprised myself. I thought I could do it but it’s been quite quick.”
Despite also being among the leaders during the run, the usually dominant Brownlee brothers, Jonny and Alistair, were both over a minute off the gold medal after what the latter had described as a “very testing last month” plagued with injury.
Both looked like they would be challenging for gold after spending both the swim and the cycle in their usual position among the leading pack. However, the wheels began to fall off once they got to the run, as the leading pack gradually pulled away from their sights to leave Jonny in seventh, with his brother back in tenth.
“About three quarters of it went alright.” said Alistair “I knew I was going to struggle on the run and I was downplaying my chances. I’ve only run a handful of times in the last month or so.
“The last few weeks has been making sure the calf is alright to make sure I could get round properly.”
Meanwhile, Sheffield swimmer Ellie Faulkner just lost out on a first-ever international medal in the 200m freestyle after finishing fourth behind 2014 champion Emma McKeon from Australia.