Wales may have missed out on a place on the podium after a stunning Mixed 4x100m relay final performance, but they signalled their intent to their Commonwealth rivals on day one in the pool.
The Welsh team, who were making their debut in the event at Sandwell Aquatics Centre, went toe-to-toe with Australia, England and Canada but fell agonisingly short. Dan Jones sprinted Wales into position before Matt Richards rediscovered his Olympic form to swim the fastest leg of the entire heat.
Medi Harris clung onto third in an epic battle with Canada’s Rebecca Smith, but Margaret MacNeil stormed home to claim bronze.
“I’m extremely proud, the crowd were incredible, the team were incredible,” said Richards. “Jarv did an amazing job this morning and it is just a brilliant way to start the meet for us, the only way is up! Four years ago we didn’t even have a Mixed 4×100 team so to have five swimmers and come fourth is unbelievable.”
In the end Wales finished less than two seconds behind Canada, but backstroke specialist Harris believes the team can use their performance as a springboard into the rest of the meet.
“I think it’s even more special because we’re such a small nation,” she said. “It shows how we can step up against the bigger guys. Hopefully it’s a good sign and we can step-up in the finals.”
Lewis Fraser twice smashed his own Welsh record to star in the 50m Butterfly.
The sprinter shaved 0.04 seconds off his previous Welsh standard in the heats before stepping up a level in the semi-finals to storm into tomorrow’s final showdown as the sixth fastest qualifier.
In a field packed with world-class talent, Fraser showed his pedigree to smash through his previous best to set a new Welsh record of 23.56.
Harriet Jones also booked her place in the final eight in the Women’s 100m Butterfly, jumping from ninth fastest in the heats to seventh in the semi-finals. Her time of 58.90 was comfortably quick enough to put her name in the mix for a medal tomorrow evening. Alys Thomas will be looking to focus on the 200m Fly after missing out on a place in the final.
There was disappointment in the semi-finals of the Men’s 100m Backstroke as Joe Small and Liam White failed to reach the final. Small was right in the mix, but finished half a second back from the final qualifying place.