Birmingham Commonwealth Games: Kiwi gold-medal swimmer Andrew Jeffcoat scales heights after career lows

Kiwi swimmer Andrew Jeffcoat has bounced back from the "brink of depression" after missing last year's Tokyo Olympics to savour a hard-won 50m backstroke gold at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

The 23-year-old clocked a personal best and NZ record of 24.65s to pip South Africa's Pieter Coetze at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre. The result comes after a slew of setbacks in the lead-up and a heartbreaking near-miss for a medal in the 100m event.

"My career's been full of ups and downs," Jeffcoat said "Every time there's a down, I'll have my moment to dwell on it, to have a bit of a cry and a bit of a moan, but I'll get back and I'll use it.

Andrew Jeffcoat celebrates victory at Birmingham
Andrew Jeffcoat celebrates victory at Birmingham. Photo credit: Getty

"Missing out on the Olympics last year was one of those moments, sitting back at home on the brink of depression, but instead of giving up and calling it quits, I vowed to myself that I would do everything I could to not miss out on the team again."

Jeffcoat contracted COVID-19 from a teammate days after booking his ticket to Birmingham and fell sick again in the run-up to a disappointing world championships at Budapest.

Finishing fourth in the 100 backstroke at Birmingham was such a hammer blow that he struggled to congratulate teammate Lewis Clareburt for his 400m medley victory on the same day.

"I was a bit heartbroken, so I wasn't there to support him as I should have," said Jeffcoat.

His development as a swimmer was overshadowed by the loss of longtime coach Ken Nixon, who died suddenly during a domestic swim event in 2019. Jeffcoat says he has been trying to keep Nixon out of his mind while racing in Birmingham.

"If I was going to have a result like I did today, now was the time to think about it and hopefully I've done him proud."