Australia only won one gold medal on Thursday in Glasgow.
It went to para-athlete Angie Ballard in the T54 1500m at Hampden Park - and it had a postscript.
Ballard waited out on the track to watch the next race, in which her friend of two decades, Kurt Fearnley, was competing.
Unbeknown to Ballard, while Fearnley was sitting on the starting line, he asked an official who had won the women’s race.
The official told him it was Diane Roy of Canada.
Fearnley went ahead and pushed bravely in his event before England’s Olympic champion David Weir exploded away from him in the back straight of the final lap.
Thanks for all the messages, that was all I had. Was another great experience, onward & upward! #CommonwealthGames— Kurt Fearnley (@kurtfearnley) July 31, 2014
Fearnley, who has won Olympic, World and Commonwealth gold medals at distances from 800m to the marathon, was initially devastated after his second place.
"You convince yourself that you’re strong enough, you’ve done the work," he said in a flat tone. "Over the next six or twelve months, I’ll convince myself again that I will be the reason that he doesn’t win gold at Rio. That’s what you do. It starts again tomorrow."
Then he was told that he had been misinformed about Ballard. She had won. On learning this, Fearnley erupted with purest joy.
"Who won gold? I don’t know anything. Ballard! She did not! Holy crap! Angie won! F--k!
"I don’t know what to say. I’ve known Ange since I was 11. We were playing in a junior camp in Narrabeen throwing balls at each other’s heads. I’m just over the moon…. That is the best. If there’s ever a good news story about effort and uncompromising drive to do what she does, it’s Angie Ballard. Awesome! I feel so happy now!"
And so Fearnley pushed off, to collect his silver that felt, due to the achievement of his friend, suddenly a lot more like gold.
Earlier, As the rain poured down on Glasgow on Thursday, Ballard sat down with her coach to write two lists. One was how they rated her opponents in that night’s final in the dry. The other was how they rated them in the wet.
There were significant differences. "You can discount some of them once it starts to rain," said Ballard, 32, who, as a Sydney University psychology graduate, had a firm grip on mind games.
"I’ve made the effort over the years to get good in the rain. Some people choose not to train when it’s wet, but I do it so I can be good in both."
Among those she did not have at the top of her ‘wet’ list was Roy, the 43-year-old Canadian who controversially had to hand back a 5000m gold medal at the Beijing Paralympics after being awarded it; there was a protest following a crash during her race, and in the re-race she came second by 0.01sec.
After the first lap of Thursday’s Commonwealth Games final, Ballard led, but soon the Canadian veteran swept past her. Sticking to the inside lane, Ballard was boxed in and trying not to get anxious. While Roy was only having to cope with rainwater off the track, her wheels were acting as a pair of hoses into Ballard’s face. "I felt like I was snorkelling, getting wet the whole time," Ballard said.
As a sprinter – she has won multiple major championships medals in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m – Ballard had one factor in her favour.
"Because of the wet," she said, "the pace wasn’t that hard. It was more technically challenging. Some of these girls are more distance athletes and 1500m is short for them. I’m a sprinter; 1500m is the furthest I go. So I could conserve some energy in the race and come home strong."
While she sat in behind Roy, the field got strung out as they struggled with the technical challenge, opening the gap for Ballard to hook to the outside and come around Roy as they exited the final turn. "If you’ve got the speed in wheelchair racing and you’re smart enough – which I’m working on, a little bit – you can come home fast," Ballard said.
She did come home fast, and she won her gold medal commandingly. "It’s a different event to the Paralympics and World Championships,’ she said, ‘but a privilege to be in the Australian team in the Commonwealth Games – very cool!"
By MATT CARR and AAP
KURT Fearnley has claimed a silver medal in Glasgow, finishing just two seconds behind the English gold medallist.
The Hunter Paralympian finished behind Englishman David Weir in the 1500m event while Australian Angela Ballard claimed the Aussies' only gold in the women's event.
Weir outlasted Fearnley, beating the Australian by less than two seconds.
Ballard and Fearnley's medals come as time trial cyclist Rohan Dennis, gymnast Larissa Miller, the women's triples bowls team also claimed silver.
Super-heavyweight weightlifter Damon Kelly and time trial cyclist Katrin Garfoot also added bronze to the nation's tally.
England now lead with 44 gold medals to Australia’s 36 while Canada are third with 27.
Australian Olympic champion Sally Pearson has powered into the women’s 100m hurdles final.
Pearson’s winning time of 12.69 seconds was her fastest since returning from a hamstring injury suffered in early June.
England’s Tiffany Porter also won her heat in a much slower time and is likely to be the main challenger in the final tomorrow morning.
Pearson says she’s kept the controversy surrounding suspended athletics head coach Eric Hollingsworth at bay during her preparation.
Hollingsworth was sent home after labelling her a bad example.
By MALCOLM KNOX