Adam Peaty was quickest in qualifying for the 100m breaststroke semi-finals at the Commonwealth Games on Saturday in his first race since recovering from a foot injury.
World record-holder Peaty, who has dominated his event in recent years, was forced to miss last month’s world championships in Budapest due to the injury.
But he looked sharp at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre on Saturday, qualifying for the semis in a time of 59.92sec, with Australian pair Sam Williamson and Zac Stubblety-Cook the next quickest.
Peaty, 27, said his swim had “blown the cobwebs out” as he bids for England’s first gold in the pool in Birmingham to slow Australia’s charge.
“I didn’t really need to do anything in the morning,” said the Olympic champion. “I saw the heats come through and thought, ‘You know what, it’s going to be a waste of energy going fast this morning’.
“We’ll see how we go tonight.”
Peaty said his injury had left him short of competitive action in 2022.
“That’s only my third race this year,” he said. “I’d normally do about 20 by now. It is what it is. It’s all about where we are in heats, how it felt and how I can improve.
“It felt a lot faster than a 59.9 but hey ho, that’s a timing board for you.”
McKeon targets record
Australian star Emma McKeon, who already has one gold at the Birmingham Games, in the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay, timed 24.52sec to finish second-fastest in the women’s 50m freestyle heats behind her teammate, Shayna Jack.
The 28-year-old, who won seven medals at the Tokyo Olympics, including four gold medals, will focus later on Saturday on equalling the Australian record for the most Commonwealth golds over the course of a career.
She goes in the 100m butterfly final.
The current Australian record is 10 golds, shared by fellow swimmers Ian Thorpe, Susie O’Neill and Leisel Jones.
Australia’s Elijah Winnington, who won 400m freestyle gold on Friday, was quickest in qualifying for the men’s 200m freestyle final.
England’s Olympic champion Tom Dean and Duncan Scott of Scotland, who finished second at the Tokyo Games, also qualified for what promises to be a mouthwatering showdown.
“It was a good morning swim,” said Winnington. “Last night I didn’t get to bed until 11 to 11:30 (pm), so that’s a really good back-up for me this morning.”
Olympic women’s 100m backstroke champion Kaylee McKeown was second-fastest in the heats for the event behind Canada’s Kylie Masse.
New Zealand’s Brendon Smith, who won bronze in the men’s 400m individual medley in Tokyo, qualified comfortably for Saturday’s final.
The evening session will also feature finals in the men’s 50m butterfly and 100m backstroke and the women’s 50m breaststroke.
And medals will be on offer in the men’s and women’s 4x100m freestyle relays.