As Scotland’s most successful Commonwealth Games sport, with 94 medals won in Swimming, Synchronised Swimming and Diving, choosing just five ‘top’ Games is a hard task. From the highest number of medals won to outstanding individual performances, here are just some of the highlights from nearly 90 years of Team Scotland participation in the pool.
Melbourne 2006 – Gold Rush and Highest Medal Tally
The Melbourne Sports & Aquatics Centre was the magnificent backdrop for the historic performances that unfolded in the pool. With an amazing double gold triumph on the first night from Caitlin McClatchey and David Carry, the swimmers grew in confidence to take on the Aussies in their home pool.
Winning 12 medals – 6 gold, 3 silver and 3 bronze – Swimming became Scotland’s most successful sport in Commonwealth Games history, a title held until Judo’s 13-medal haul at Glasgow 2014. A superb overall team effort with 11 swimmers winning medals, their success was built on the performances of their three double gold medallists, Caitlin McClatchey, David Carry and Gregor Tait. With a further two bronze medals to his tally Gregor was the Scottish swimmer of the meet and the top Scot of the Games.
Kirsty Balfour was a double medallist, following up silver in the 200m Breaststroke with bronze in the 100m event, while Euan Dale also stepped onto the podium twice with silver in both the 400m Individual Medley and as part of the 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay alongside David Carry, Andy Hunter and Robbie Renwick.
Glasgow 2014 – Home Games Success
The action at the Tollcross International Swimming Centre got underway on day one of the Games and, from the outset, Scotland’s swimmers were on top form and added to the team’s early gold rush. First up, Hannah Miley retained her title as Commonwealth Games champion in the 400m Individual Medley, an impressive feat and the only Scottish athlete to do so in any sport. She added a bronze in the 200m Individual Medley later in the week. Within minutes of Miley collecting her gold, there was the first surprise of the night when 20 year old Ross Murdoch beat hometown favourite and fellow Scot, Michael Jamieson into second place in the 200m Breaststroke in a new Games record. The expression on Ross’s face said it all! Murdoch went on two days later to collect a bronze in the 100m Breaststroke to confirm his arrival on the world stage.
A third gold in the pool came from Dan Wallace on day two in the men’s 400m Individual Medley and he went on to pick up a further two silver medals in the 200m Individual Medley and as part of the men’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay team, to finish as the top Scottish swimmer of the Games.
But the darling of the pool was Shetland’s Erraid Davies, who at 13 years old was Team Scotland’s youngest ever team member and now medallist, winning bronze in the Para-Sport SB9 100m Breaststroke. Erraid’s beaming smile was a Games highlight that trended worldwide on Twitter and will be remembered for many years to come.
Other Swimming medallists included Corrie Scott in the women’s 50m Breaststroke and the Men’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay team of Stephen Milne, Robbie Renwick, Duncan Scott & Dan Wallace, with Jak Scott, Gareth Mills, Cameron Brodie & Craig Hamilton ensuring the team cruised through the heats. This was the third successive Games where Scotland has taken silver in this event. Swimming won a total of 10 medals: 3 gold, 3 silver and 4 bronze to take Aquatics’ overall Commonwealth Games medal tally to an impressive 83 (including 23 gold), more than any other Scottish sport at the Games.
Over in Edinburgh at the Royal Commonwealth Pool, Scotland’s two divers Grace Reid and James Heatly acquitted themselves well, both setting new personal bests in the heats and finals of the 1m and 3m Springboard events.
Vancouver 1954 – Making Up More Than Half the Medal Tally
Aquatics won seven medals in Vancouver including three gold. Impressively this was more than half of the Scottish team’s total of 13 medals across all sports.
Elenor Gordon successfully defended her 220yds Breaststroke title having first won gold four years previously in Auckland. She won in a new Games record time of 2 minutes 59.2 seconds. Peter Heatly had victories with a gold in the 3m Springboard and a bronze in the 10m Platform to add to the gold and silver he had won in 1950. But the glory of the Games for Scotland was the triumph of the Women’s 3x 110 yards Medley Relay team. Elenor Gordon, Margaret Girvan and Margaret McDowall won in a new Games record time of 3 mins 51 secs to upset the traditional order. Victory against the swimming might of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and England had seemed too much to hope for.
There was a further medal for Margaret Girvan as she took bronze in the 440 yards Freestyle, while John Wardrop was also a double medallist with silver in the 440 yards Freestyle before teaming up with twin brother Robert and John Service to win bronze in the 330 yards Medley Relay.
Christchurch 1974 – Double Gold for Wilkie
David Wilkie won two gold & a silver in Christchurch, a tally not bettered by a swimmer until Gregor Tait in 2006. Two years later Wilkie would go on to win Olympic gold in World Record time, a record that remained unbroken for six years. He would go on to become the only swimmer ever to hold British, American, European, Commonwealth, World and Olympic titles at the same time.
Kim Wickham and Sandra Dickie were the other individual medallists in Christchurch, Wickham winning silver in the 100m Butterfly and Dickie bronze in the 100m Breaststroke, with both also part of the medal winning Medley Relay.
Television viewers could watch all the Swimming action unfold in colour for the first time, one of three sports (the others Athletics and Boxing) to be broadcast in colour as the Games marked the introduction of colour television to New Zealand.
Hamilton 1930 – Swimmers Shine at First Commonwealth Games
Aquatics was one of only six sports contested in Hamilton and the only sport open to women at those first Games. There was no gold in the pool for Scotland, but the team did manage to collect two silver and three bronze medals from just five swimmers.
Twice Olympic silver medallist and World record holder, Ellen King was the star of the pool for Scotland with one silver and two bronze medals. She took second in the 100 yards Freestyle, bronze in the 200 yards Breaststroke and her third medal as part of the bronze medal winning 4 x 100 yards Freestyle Relay. Cissie Stewart, also part of that Relay team, took bronze in the 400 yards Freestyle, while Scotland’s only male swimmer at these Games, William Francis, took silver in the 100 yards Backstroke.
Training on the long sea voyage to Canada was to prove difficult. The ship did not have a swimming pool but the captain ordered a huge tarpaulin to be swung between two booms on the deck and filled with sea water. It gave the swimmers about 20 feet of length in which to practise. Also popular was the punch ball brought by a member of the athletics team. Ellen King was particularly enthusiastic and was presented with her own punch ball by her team mates at the end of the journey!