Birmingham Commonwealth Games: Kiwi cyclists, swimmers lead medal grab on day two

New Zealand's much-scrutinised track cycling programme has continued to pay dividends, scooping three of the four gold medals available at the velodrome on day two of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

Pursuiters Bryony Botha and Aaron Gate built on their team success 24 hours earlier, taking out their individual events and setting Games records in the process, with Tom Sexton snatching silver behind Gate in the men's final.

Then, with controversy still surrounding her part in the NZ team pursuit silver the previous day, Ellesse Andrews shocked Tokyo Olympic champion Kelsey Mitchell of Canada in the women's sprint final, coming from behind twice to pass her highly touted rival.

Birmingham Commonwealth Games: Kiwi cyclists, swimmers lead medal grab on day two

Over the past 12 months, Cycling NZ's high performance programme has undergone intense review, after the death of former sprinter Olivia Podmore, and has virtually been rebuilt, with athlete wellbeing at the forefront.

Results at the Lee Valley VeloPark suggest the restructure has already paid dividends.

  • Botha set Games records in both qualifying and the gold-medal ride-off, where she caught Aussie rival Maeve Plouffe just before the finish, after making up the 125m difference at the start.
  • Gate again showed what a loss he was to the Tokyo Olympics campaign, where he crashed out in the pursuit team's bronze-medal race and could not contest his individual events. He trailled fast-starting teammate Sexton through the opening kilo, but blitzed the third split to assert his control.
Cameron Gray celebrates swimming bronze at Birmingham
Cameron Gray celebrates swimming bronze at Birmingham. Photo credit: Photosport
  • Andrews was under the microscope, after making up numbers in the team pursuit and not even turning up to collect her silver medal, as she prepared for the team sprint. She was fined for her absence, but claimed her second gold of the Games to compensate that loss.

Meanwhile, at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre, New Zealand captured two medals and narrowly missed a third, following up on Dame Sophie Pascoe's record-equalling fifth gold the previous day.

  • Medley specialist Lewis Clareburt stormed to victory over 400 metres, smashed the Games record to improve on his bronze at Gold Coast four years ago. Unlike his rivals, whose fortunes ebbed and flowed throughout the race, Clareburt showed consistency across all four strokes, clocking the fastest splits over butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke.
  • Cameron Gray barely scraped through as one of the slowest qualifiers in heats and semis, but snuck under the radar in lane one to take an unexpected bronze medal in the 50m butterfly. 
  • One of the fastest qualifers through the semi-finals, Andrew Jeffcoat lead early, turned in second, but faded over the final metres to lose a 100m backstroke medal by just 0.07s.

New Zealand still sit second on the Games medal table, based on their seven gold medals, trailling only Australia (12), although hosts England have won more medals overall, with 21. 

With the track cycling continuing into its third day and our sevens teams in medal contention, more hardware beckons on Monday (NZ time).

  • After Hayden Wilde's controversially silver medal in the men's race, our triathletes join forces for the mixed relay, where they took bronze four years ago at Gold Coast.
  • Defending champion Sam Webster will shoot for his third consecutive gold medal in the men's sprint, while the women's kilo and 25km points race, and men's 15km scratch race offer more opportunities for our track cyclists.
  • Black Ferns Sevens may have seen their gold-medal hopes disappear, but still have bronze to play for against Canada. Similarly, our men face a tough semi-final against archrivals Fiji, but are well in the medal hunt.
  • In the pool, paralympic champion Tupou Neiufi will contest the 100m backstroke S8, where she won surprise gold at Tokyo last year.

Our basketball 3X3 women, Black Sticks women and Silver Ferns are still unbeaten in pool play, squash aces Paul Coll, Joelle King and Kaitlyn Watts are nearing the medal rounds, while our bowlers have quarter-finals looming.

Join us at 7pm Sunday for live updates of the Birmingham Games