The brutal yet pleasant rivalry between Duncan Scott and Tom Dean gained another chapter on the very last day of swimming at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre as Scott hung onto his lead during a dramatic climax to the 200m individual medley, eventually seeing off a surging Dean to win his second gold medal and fifth medal of the Games.
Another gold medal is further evidence that Scott stands at the peak of his powers. Over the past 13 months, he has won two individual Olympic silver medals, four overall, and now six medals at the Commonwealth Games.
His haul in Birmingham includes another gold medal in the 200m freestyle, where he and Dean also faced off, with Scott edging him out. Scott, 25, is Scotland’s most decorated Commonwealth athlete of all time with 12 medals overall.
Having trailed in third place after the opening butterfly lap, Scott tore through the field on the backstroke lap to establish a half-second lead after 100m. Despite Scott not letting up, Dean spent the final freestyle lap furiously chasing Scott down. He very nearly did but Scott held on to win with a Games record time of 1:56.88, just 0.13 ahead of Dean.
“Rivalries or competition in general gets the best out of us. I say that for myself and I can say that for Deano, we love a race,” said Scott in a joint interview with Dean to the BBC. “Whether it’s with each other or anything from Olympic Games, World Champs or Commonwealth Games, we love the atmosphere, we love finals. We love getting in amongst it and we love racing each other as well because it gets the best out of each other.”
This has been no deficient debut Commonwealth Games for Dean, whose second place finish yielded his sixth silver medal of the event. After winning two gold medals in a stunning breakout Olympics last year and then three bronze medals at the World Championships this year, the 22-year-old has further established himself as one of the premier swimmers of his generation.
After the silence of the empty venues at the Tokyo Olympics, it is also his first experience of a major international Games with a crowd, something he has lapped up throughout. “What a great week,” he said. “Dunc got the better of me again on this one tonight, but pushing each other on, that’s what’s all about. And I can’t get enough of this crowd. My coach, Dave, says it’s like a drug. It just gets you going. It’s absolutely incredible.”
In the penultimate race of the event, Dean finally clinched his first Commonwealth gold medal, anchoring the England team in the final leg of the 4x100m medley relay as they barely held off Australia to win gold.
Over the past eight years, one of the constant sights in Commonwealth Games swimming has been the excellence of Ben Proud, who broke through on to the world stage aged 19 in Glasgow 2014 and quickly established himself at the top of the sport. He continued his sprinting dominance over all rivals by winning his third consecutive gold medal in the 50m freestyle. It is his second gold medal in Birmingham, having also won the 50m butterfly title.
Now 27 years old, Proud is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career after also winning 50m freestyle gold at the World Championships in June. The victory takes Proud’s medal haul to two golds this year in Birmingham and eight Commonwealth Games medals overall. Afterwards, Proud saluted his teammate, Lewis Burras, who finished in second place.
“For me, that’s a really big achievement,” said Proud. “To be able to say I’ve been here for years consistently at the top is brilliant. I held off the young guns for one more year. It’s a fantastic job from Lewis, getting a silver medal. Never thought I’d have an English guy with me, but today’s the day. A massive swim.”
Burras, 22, clinched his first ever individual medal to secure England’s first swimming 1-2 of the event with his first individual medal. As he took it all in, he shook his head: “To stand on the podium with this guy, 12 year old me is going crazy,” he said.