Putting the hammer down
GLASGOW — Sultana Frizell spent her pre-Games training camp in Portugal working out in her bathing suit, throwing someone else’s hammers. Her bag had been lost in transit.
It wasn’t the perfect preparation Frizell had planned, but she shrugged it off Monday night by capturing hammer throw gold at the Commonwealth Games — breaking the Games record three times in the process.
“I didn’t have my hammers or my throwing gear. Or underwear. For about six days,” Frizell said with a smirk. “That was fun. I threw in my bathing suit.”
The 29-year-old from Perth, Ont., threw 71.69 metres to claim gold, but left Hampden Park disappointed that she didn’t come closer to the Canadian record of 75.73 she threw earlier this season.
“I’m very happy to win gold again and move the Commonwealth record a little bit further,” she said. “It wasn’t as far as I would have liked it ... I was feeling in good form and I thought I was going to do a little more today, but it wasn’t in the tank today.
“But you know what, it was a great day.”
Tim Nedow of Brockville, Ont., added a bronze in the men’s shot put later in the night, and Damian Warner of London, Ont., ended Day 1 of the decathlon with an 84-point lead.
Swimmer Audrey Lacroix of Pont-Rouge, Que., also won gold for Canada on Monday, finishing first in the women’s 200-metre butterfly. Brittany MacLean of Toronto made the podium at the pool as well, winning bronze in the women’s 800-metre freestyle and breaking her own Canadian record in the process.
Edmonton weightlifter Marie-Josee Ares-Pilon captured bronze in the 69-kilogram women’s class and Pascal Plamondon of Ascot Corner, Que., won bronze in the men’s 85-kilo category.
“I was nervous, but not more than any other competition,” said Ares-Pilon. “Every time I perform I become a little nervous but that is healthy and normal. I try to stay in the moment because that is what is important.”
Canada was tied for sixth in the overall medal standings with 24 total medals (nine gold, three silver, 12 bronze). Australia is in top spot with 87 (30-25-32).
Frizell came in as the defending champion, having won the event four years ago in New Delhi, India. She opened the night with a throw of 70.55 to break the Games record of 68.92 she’d set in qualifying a day earlier.
She bettered that again on her fifth of six throws. The fans that squeezed into Hampden Park — Scotland’s famous national soccer stadium — to watch the first day of track and field roared when she stepped into the circle for her final throw.
“I thought, ’I’d better not screw it up’ ... pffft, ... and I did,” said Frizell, who ended the night with a 70.60 toss.
The five-foot-10 thrower was actually a figure skater growing up, competing in ice dance until she was 16 — a sport that’s a polar opposite to hammer throwing.
“We look pretty twirling,” she joked, about hammer throwing. “I just grew too much for figure skating, for jumping and stuff. Every year I would grow.”
She also played volleyball and basketball in high school and then, forced to pick between track and soccer during the spring high school season, she went with track.
“And I was going to throw. Because I didn’t want to run,” Frizell said.
Frizell reeled off one joke after another with the media in the mixed zone after her event, but the thrower is a fierce competitor when she steps into the ring.
“It’s game time,” she explained. “You just walk out there like I walked out there today, and it’s game time.
“You come off, it’s relax time, you’re done, you left it all out there on the track and you’re done.”
Nedow, meanwhile, threw 20.59 to capture the shot put bronze in a field missing injured Canadian-record holder Dylan Armstrong.
O’Dayne Richards of Jamaican threw a Games-record 21.61 for gold, while Tom Walsh of New Zealand was second with 21.19.
“It was a great competition, two guys breaking the Commonwealth Games record, that just shows how stacked the field is,” Nedow said.
The 23-year-old trains with Frizell and Armstrong as part of the throws program coached by Anatoliy Bondarchuk and Derek Evely in Kamloops, B.C.
“We’re all fun on the side but when it comes to training, we’re serious,” Nedow said. “That helps a lot ... it’s almost a competition every day.”
Warner, meanwhile, is on pace to win the men’s decathlon as the leader after Day 1. The 24-year-old from London, Ont., ran 10.29 in the 100 metres to begin the day, breaking the Games record held by British legend Daley Thompson.
“Yeah the 100 was good,” Warner said. “When I was about halfway down (the track), I thought, ’Please say 10.29.’ Just because I wanted to dip under that 10.30. I got it and I’m pretty happy with that.”
He finished the day just two points off where he was after Day 1 at last summer’s world championships where he won bronze. But he gave up about 100 points in the high jump, he said — 100 points that would have put him within striking distance of Michael Smith’s Canadian record of 8,626 he set in 1996.
“Pleased with everything except for high jump,” Warner said. “I would have liked to get around the 2.05 range. But I guess I have to settle with 1.96 and make up the points in other places.”
Warner planned to head straight to the athletes village for dinner, a massage and then sleep before Day 2 began at 10 o’clock Tuesday morning.
A rowdy crowd turned out to watch both the morning qualifying events and the evening finals at Hampden Park.
The storied stadium has been transformed for track and field by raising the surface almost two metres and extending the track over the existing lower eight rows of seats. Hampden Park seats 44,000 now, but it will be returned to a 52,000-seat soccer stadium following the Games.
The venue has seen some huge crowds over the years. One of the biggest was back in 1937 when nearly 150,000 people squeezed in to watch a Scotland-England soccer game.