Kyle Chalmers touched the wall, looked up to check the results, then stood up and put his index finger to his lips.
The Australian had just won the men’s 100m freestyle, a Commonwealth Games gold in six years – his first at a major international event since becoming Olympic champion at Rio 2016.
And after a week of unfounded speculation and relentless questions about his private life, his time of 47.51 seconds symbolically silenced all unwelcome attention.
“I thought about it before,” Chalmers told the Seven Network after the race, in which England’s Tom Dean and Scotland’s Duncan Scott won silver and bronze respectively.
“Normally I do a little more powerful celebration after a win, but this is one that probably means more than just throwing a punch or flexing your muscles.
“It’s special to win, but unfortunately I think it’s hard to enjoy the moment when everything that happened has continued. That makes it a difficult time.
“I’m grateful that I was able to block him enough to get up and win tonight. Hopefully that’s a learning point for everyone, and hopefully no one else has to go through What I have experienced.
On a day when tabletop champions Australia again added to their already bloated medal haul in Birmingham, with Emma McKeon leading the swimmers dominance and Matthew Glaetzer (track cycling), Georgia Godwin (gymnastics), Ellen Ryan (bowls) and Tinka Easton (judo) among other gold medalists, Chalmers said he was unusually emotional before the race.
“The last 48 hours have been one hell of an emotional roller coaster,” he said. “I appreciate all the support I’ve had. I couldn’t have passed [without] this.
“Yesterday there were times when I thought I wouldn’t continue. It just allows the media to win. For me, I had to get up and do it, not for me but for everyone at home, everything the world going through similar things. I hope I can inspire and I will continue this conversation.
It was then that McKeon won her fourth gold medal of the Games and the 12th of her career, edging out compatriot Holly Barratt – who finished tied for second with South Africa’s Erin Gallagher – to build on her new record as the most successful Commonwealth Games athlete in history.
Also in the pool, Kaylee McKeown took victory in the 200m backstroke to add to her triumph in the 100m, beating Kylie Masse and breaking the Canadian Commonwealth Games record in the process.
The men’s relay team won a fourth consecutive 4x200m gold medal in record time at the Games, and Matthew Levy took gold in the men’s S7 50m freestyle to end an illustrious career with a string of gold medals at the Paralympic Games, World Championships and Commonwealth Games.
“It’s great to end here and look back on what it was four years ago,” Levy said. “I’ve had a very long career and it’s great to continue to achieve this high level for 20 years and I’m very proud of tonight and proud of my career.”
Meanwhile, Cody Simpson advanced to the men’s 100m butterfly final, qualifying fifth fastest with a third-place finish in his semi-final.
“Pretty wild, quite special,” Simpson said. “That was my goal, to make sure I got into the night. Just relieved that I was.
At the velodrome, Glaetzer put two days of setbacks behind him to defend his 1km time trial from four years ago and equal Anna Meares’ Australian record of five Commonwealth Games gold medals.
Despite having to use different handlebars for safety reasons, Glaetzer (59.505 seconds) and fellow Australian Tom Cornish (1:00.036) finished first and second ahead of Nicholas Paul of Trinidad and Tobago ( 1:00.089).
The race – likely his last at the Commonwealth Games – was the fitting end to a 48-hour nightmare, in which the 29-year-old from Adelaide crashed during the keirin and needed to cut his elbow to remove the splinters, then was denied a bronze medal in the exam in the men’s sprint.
AusCycling had told Aussies they should use less aero sprint handlebars for fear the aerobars wouldn’t hold up to the power output of riders. The decision was made following a review following Alex Porter’s accident at the Tokyo Olympics, which found the governing body failed to properly test the equipment.
“It was last minute when we found out,” Glaetzer said. “We couldn’t control it. But we’d rather be safe and not break anything or lacerate our arm with something wrong, so we took it in our stride.
Gymnast Godwin won the individual vault to take her haul to two golds and two silvers, in a campaign that almost single-handedly thrust gymnastics into the limelight.
And Ryan won Australia’s first women’s bowls singles gold medal as the 25-year-old held off Guernsey’s Lucy Beere 21-17.
The Diamonds remain unbeaten in netball after eliminating South Africa 74-49, although midfielder Paige Hadley is in doubt for the team’s next game against Wales on Tuesday after picking up an injury at the calf.
It was not a good day for the women’s 3×3 basketball team, which lost their semi-final 20-13 to hosts England.