It was an historic night in the pool for Northern Ireland as Barry McClements claimed their first-ever Commonwealth swimming medal in a dramatic race.
For a while, it looked like he might be beaten to the punch by teammate Daniel Wiffen, who broke the Irish record but had to settle for fourth in the first swimming final of Birmingham 2022.
Instead, McClements had the honour of rewriting the record books, taking third in the men’s 100m backstroke S9 – doing so in front of his nearest and dearest.
He said: “I feel amazing. I didn't get a PB so when I looked up and saw my time, I was a bit worried but then saw third beside my name so it's an amazing feeling.
“This is the first time my family's seen me race in about four years because of Covid. I'm very happy to get my first international medal in front of them.
“I came here knowing my time this year was ranked third but then in the heat sheets I was ranked fifth. I was just thinking a bit too much about the rankings but when I got in the call room I just said to myself 'I'm just going to rip stuff up'.”
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Wiffen came very close to a bronze of his own, giving former Olympic champion Mack Horton a real scare but unable to prevent an Australian clean sweep in the men’s 400m freestyle.
His time of 3:46.62 was just 13 hundredths behind the defending champion and gave Wiffen confidence that he can earn that elusive medal in the 1500m later this week.
He added: “I’m happy with the time, coming fourth isn’t nice but we move on and it’s a PB as well. Another Irish record as well.
“Give me another five metres and I think I would have had him (Horton) at the end.
“Being so close is so good, it’s given me a lot of confidence for the 1500m.”
Elsewhere boxer John Paul Hale’s Commonwealth Games dream was ended prematurely in his opening contest at the NEC, where the Belfast fighter lost a tight split decision to Uganda’s Joshua Tukamuhebwa.
The 21-year-old light welterweight was targeting a medal at Birmingham 2022 having already won National Elite honours and represented his country at the World and European Championships.
But after Hale made a bright start to the bout, Tukamuhebwa came back into the Round of 32 contest and claimed the victory after three of the five judges awarded him the decision.
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