Commonwealth Games: Gold in 50 Fly is ‘Legacy’ Swim For Ben Proud; Lara van Niekerk Dominates 50 Breaststroke

Ben Proud

Commonwealth Games: Ben Proud (50 Butterfly) and Lara van Niekerk (50 Breaststroke) Claim Crowns

The highlight of the World Championships for England’s Ben Proud was a title in the 50-meter freestyle, a victory he claimed in dominant fashion. Conversely, the bummer for Proud was a missed podium in the 50 butterfly, an event in which his semifinal performance would have landed him on the podium.

On Saturday, Proud didn’t let the 50 fly get away.

Dominant in the prelims and semifinals at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, Proud overwhelmed the field in the final behind a sterling performance of 22.81. Proud’s time was good for a Games record and handed him a convincing triumph over Singapore’s Tzen Wei Teong, who was the silver medalist in 23.21. New Zealand’s Cameron Gray was the bronze medalist, edging Trinidad & Tobago’s Dylan Carter by the slimmest of margins, 23.27 to 23.28.

One of the best pure sprinters of the past decade, Proud is now a two-time champion of the 50 butterfly at the Commonwealth Games, his first title arriving in 2014. This latest triumph is also a measure of redemption, as Proud was disqualified from the event during prelims at the 2018 edition of the Games. Later this week, the Englishman will chase a third consecutive Commonwealth gold in the 50 freestyle.

“It’s a weird one,” Proud said. “On paper, it’s just another gold medal but to me this is an eight-year legacy that I’ve just completed. I walked into this event eight years ago and walked away with a gold not knowing what I’d done. Four years later, I got disqualified and felt like I was held back from taking that title, so to be able to come back four years later after a lengthy career, after some highs and lows and to take that gold back into my hands, that is something that I am extremely grateful for.

“This is the thing about maturing as an athlete. You walk into these things, you don’t really know what you are doing, but you’re just doing it because you want to get better and better. I’ve dedicated my life to swimming, to the sport in a way that probably not many people have and this to me is the kind of achievement that I can take away and say that I’ve done for the rest of my life. I can’t say I’ll be here in four years’ time to defend that title again but who knows? To me, this was my legacy swim and I’ve done it and I’m looking forward to the freestyle now.”

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While Proud ruled all three rounds of the 50 fly, the same can be said for South African Lara van Niekerk in the women’s 50 breaststroke. En route to the final of the event, van Niekerk twice broke the Games record, and was the only athlete to dip under 30 seconds. In the final, she took her Games standard even lower when she covered her lap in 29.73. Van Niekerk was .29 faster than England’s Imogen Clark, who clocked in at 30.02 for the silver medal. Australia’s Chelsea Hodges was the bronze medalist in 30.05.

Last month, van Niekerk was the bronze medalist in the 50 breaststroke at the World Championships and she has emerged as the perfect complement in South Africa to Tatjana Schoenmaker, the reigning Olympic champion in the 200 breaststroke and the Olympic silver medalist in the 100 breaststroke. Schoenmaker, who has her better events ahead, was fourth in 30.41.

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