Netballers win Australia’s 1,000th Commonwealth Games gold medal

·4 min read
<span>Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA</span>
Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

Another rush of gold in Birmingham saw Australia reach a major milestone as the Diamonds netball team claimed the nation’s 1,000th Commonwealth Games gold medal. It followed success – and another slice of history – for the women’s T20 cricketers at Edgbaston after they edged India by nine runs to win the first Commonwealth gold medal awarded to women.

Chef de Mission Petria Thomas said it was an honour to have led the team towards such a momentous occasion. “Australia has a long and proud sporting history, with this 1,000th gold medal cementing our spot at the top of the Commonwealth table,” said Thomas. “On behalf of the whole team, I congratulate the Diamonds in bringing home this significant medal in our amazing history and all those who have stood atop the podium at this year’s Games and all the Games, dating back to Hamilton in 1930.”

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At the NEC Arena, Gretal Bueta shot 100% in a 55-51 win over Jamaica as Australia bounced back from the disappointment of silver on the Gold Coast four years ago to became the first nation to reach the milestone with their 66th gold of these Games in Birmingham.

In the two teams’ final pool game, Australia had let slip a six-goal lead at the final break and fell to their first Commonwealth loss to Jamaica. With their confidence high, the Jamaicans then routed New Zealand, as Australia found form when too strong for England. It set the tone for a fierce final.

But Australia were not going to make the same mistake again. Having levelled by half-time, they wrested control in the third quarter, moving 10 points ahead at one stage, and showed strong resistance against their richly-talented rivals to claim gold.

Steph Wood said there were flashbacks to the traumatic loss in the final against England on the Gold Coast but this time around they found a way to maintain their focus. “It’s very surreal. The emotion after the game. There were tears [and] a bit of PTSD from the Gold Coast in that last little bit,” she said. “It’s such a tight-knit group. We wanted to do it for each other.”

On the athletics track, Peter Bol set off in pursuit of Kenyan Wycliffe Kinyamal at Alexander Stadium but had to settle for silver 0.14 seconds behind the record-breaker, who became the first man to defend the Commonwealth Games 800m title in 1:47.52.

“I got a medal and that’s what we wanted,” Bol said. “I had a lot of pressure and a lot of expectations, but I lived up to it, and that’s my first medal at a major championships.”

Earlier on Sunday, the Hockeyroos also fared second best in their final against England when beaten 2-1. A week after the Lionesses became the pride of England, the chant of “Hockey’s coming home” was heard ringing around the University of Birmingham as the host nation claimed their first gold medal in women’s hockey.

There were several standout individual performances from Australians leading into the women’s teams events later in the day.

Kelsey-Lee Barber throws on her way to gold in Birmingham.
Kelsey-Lee Barber throws on her way to gold in Birmingham. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

A double world champion in javelin, Kelsey-Lee Barber saved her very best for last again. Stricken with Covid-19 after her success at the world championships in Oregon, the 30-year-old missed the opening ceremony and spent several days isolated from her teammates.

Her compatriot Mackenzie Little raised the bar with a personal best in the final of 64.27m. But Barber, who was cleared to compete late in the week, loves a challenge. She responded with her final throw to edge her teammate by 16cm to continue her success in major championships with gold.

Cassiel Rousseau dived superbly to claim gold in the men’s 10m platform, scoring massive points with his final entry in the morning qualification and bettering that with a superb effort to close out the competition.

Related: Inspired England beat Australia to win Commonwealth Games hockey gold

Cyclist Georgia Baker also saved her best for the finish of the women’s road race, in the process claiming a third gold following triumphs in London in the team pursuit and points race.

As Australia’s cricket innings began, Chris McHugh and Paul Burnett also clinched a gold medal for the nation in beach volleyball. But the defence of the title was not without drama either.

McHugh, who was part of Australia’s winning combination on the Gold Coast, and Burnett dropped the first set and had to save two match points in the decider when winning 17-21, 21-17, 20-18 over Canada. Amid the tension, referee Giovanni Bake had to be replaced at 12-all in the deciding set, ostensibly due to baking in the sun.

“It is crazy. To come from two match points down is a surreal experience,” Burnett said. “This is why we play, for moments like this, feelings like this.”

The women’s pairing of Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy won silver after falling in their final to Canada’s Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes in three sets.