High in emotion, low in standards
MELBOURNE, Mar 26: The Commonwealth Games athletics began with a lung-busting marathon win for Australia and brought joy for the Jamaican sprinters, yet few were convinced by the overall standard of the competition.
''Too many people try to put these championships on a par with the world championships or the Olympics but they are not -- never have been, never will be,'' double word record holder Michael Johnson told the BBC today.
''We have seen some very good competition in Melbourne and some good performances but I do not think we have seen any that were truly world-class,'' the American added.
Despite the usual clutch of new Commonwealth marks, not one world record was threatened, leaving observers in no doubt that the Games remain on a level well below other international events.
However, there were plenty of stirring moments along the way, none more so than Australian Kerryn McCann's courageous defence of her marathon title on the opening day, when she held off a brave challenge from Kenyan Hellen Cherono.
Stride-for-stride around the 42km course, the duo exchanged the lead nine times as they approached the Melbourne Cricket Ground before the roaring crowd carried McCann, a 38-year-old mother of two, for one last sprint home.
The hosts finished on top of the medals table with 16 of the 53 gold medals on offer, including 2003 world champion Jana Pittman's emotional defence of her 400m hurdles title and John Steffensen's commanding 400m victory.
Australia's Nathan Deakes also became the first man ever to successfully defend titles in the 20km and 50km walks.
SPRINT SWEEP Led by world record holder Asafa Powell, the Jamaican team stamped their authority on the sprint events. Powell fittingly powered home on the final leg of the last sprint, the men's 4x100 relay, past an Australian team that botched its final baton handover.
That win completed the first clean sweep of all sprint titles -- men's and women's 100m and 200m, hurdles and relays -- at a major championship since a Carl Lewis-led U.S. team at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
Powell dispelled any lingering injury fears by coasting to victory in the men's 100m in 10.03, well outside his world mark of 9.77, showing that he still had plenty left in the tank for the big events to come.
Sheri-Ann Brooks and Sherone Simpson emerged as new sprint queens in winning the 100m and 200m respectively before combining to win the 100m relay.
While there was joy for Jamaica, there was nothing but soul-searching for English sprinters after a disastrous meet.
England's men's 4x100 team, boasting three members of Britain's gold-winning quartet from the Athens Olympics, failed to hand over the baton in their heats and were eliminated.
Only one -- Marlon Devonish -- made it to the 100m final but came last. No Englishman made it to the 200m final for the first time since 1966.
''It's a combination of poor selection and poor performance,'' British middle distance great Steve Cram said.
There was some track joy for England, with warhorse Dean Macey winning his first major title in the decathlon and Kelly Sotherton winning the heptathlon.
Phillips Idowu won the triple jump and javelin thrower Nick Nieland also triumphed, but Australia was also well represented in the field.
Stuart Rendell and Brooke Krueger both smashed Games records in winning the men's and women's hammer throw, as did Bronwyn Thompson in the long jump and Kym Howe in the final medal to be awarded, the women's pole vault.
Uganda also broke Kenya's dominance in the distance events, winning its first two Commonwealth track gold medals.
Boniface Kiprop triumphed in the 10,000 after Dorcus Inzikuru had the honour of winning the nation's first track gold in the inaugural women's 3,000 steeplechase.