GOLD COAST – English sprinters finally found their mojo as the Commonwealth Games track and field events came to a head on Saturday, forcing Jamaican legend Usain Bolt to ponder coming out of retirement.
Neeraj Chopra, a farmer’s son from a village outside of Delhi, captured a historic javelin gold for India, while veteran Levern Spencer won the women’s high jump to give Saint Lucia its first Commonwealth title in any sport.
England’s speed demons finished on a high note after a disappointing Games blighted by misfortune, rocketing to a golden double in the 4x100 metres relays.
Zharnel Hughes, stripped of gold in the 200m earlier this week, helped the men’s quartet bring the baton round in 38.13 seconds, ahead of South Africa and Jamaica.
Bolt, who retired last year after almost a decade of dominance, tweeted about returning to the sport after watching the English snatch Jamaica’s Commonwealth title.
“Did I retire too soon? Hmmm,” the eight-time Olympic champion posted to his 5.1 million followers. “Watching the relay just now made me ask myself a few questions.”
Informed of Bolt’s message, English anchor leg Harry Aikines-Aryeetey shot back: “They need him to beat us now! Last time in Glasgow we gave the baton ahead of him and they can’t handle us without him.”
South Africa, including 100m champion Akani Simbine and runner-up Henricho Bruintjies, took silver in 38.24, with Yohan Blake anchoring Jamaica to bronze in 38.35.
“I was always playing catch-up on that last leg,” said Blake, who could only finish third behind the South Africans in the 100m earlier in the week.
“Jamaica was dominating for a while, but we’re going through a transition period.”
Lorraine Ugen then brought England’s women home first in the 4x100m relay, despite having double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson breathing down her neck, to win in 42.46.
Jamaica hit back to win the women’s 4x400m relay, before Botswana raced away to win the men’s 4x400m, celebrating by dropping to perform group push-ups as a small pocket of flag-waving fans went wild.
England’s relay wins came as some consolation after a miserable run of luck with injuries and disqualifications, giving them a total of five athletics gold medals – two behind Jamaica – with only Sunday’s marathons to come.
Hosts Australia top the table with 10 combined golds for able-bodied and para sports.
Hughes apologised again for his DQ in the 200m on Thursday when he caught Trinidad and Tobago’s Jereem Richards in the face as they dipped for the line.
“What happened, happened,” shrugged the 22-year-old. “Sorry about it, I’ve moved on from it. At the end of the day I’m a champion, I hold my head up high.”
World champion Hellen Obiri romped to victory in the women’s 5 000m, while Elijah Motonei Manangoi followed his world title by winning the men’s 1,500m.
Chopra, a 20-year-old with Bollywood looks, won the javelin with a throw of 86.47 metres to become only the third Indian man to win Games gold in track and field.
“I’ve been totally relaxed,” he said.
“Most of the time a people put too much pressure on themselves. I tried to be natural because I was completely confident in how I’ve prepared myself.”
Saint Lucia’s Spencer gave a scream of delight after winning the women’s high jump to give the tiny Caribbean island a historic gold.