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Steffensen 'walks the walk' in 400-meter upset

Steffensen 'walks the walk' in 400-meter upset

Australia uncovered a new track and field poster boy yesterday, but a pint-sized teenager captured the country's hearts.

John Steffensen, the son of South African parents but a proud, swaggering Aussie fueled on the confidence of being taught by legendary American coach John Smith, took gold in the men's 400 meters.

Australia was also enchanted by 13-year-old diver Melissa Wu after the yongster picked up a silver medal.

While the night's athletics golds were shared out, Samaresh Jung provided India's - and perhaps the Games' - biggest highlight by moving closer to a record seven gold medals.

India also celebrated a third gold medal in weightlifting but its day at the Games ended on a low note when their men's team bowed out of the field hockey tournament with rival Pakistan delivering the fatal blow.

After the raw emotions of the swimming pool, it was left to 23-year-old Steffensen and 13-year-old Wu to inherit the affection of the home nation.

The flamboyant runner's 400-meter victory was a first track gold for Australia since Darren Clarke won the same event in 1990.

Steffensen smashed his personal best in a time of 44.73 seconds to beat two-time world indoor champion Alleyne Francique of Grenada while Jermaine Gonzales of Jamaica took the bronze.

"Did I walk the walk, or what?" asked Steffensen, who won silver in the 2004 Athens Olympics as part of Australia's 4x400m relay team.

"I'm in a world of pain. Hopefully all of Australia will be celebrating tonight."

Alleyne, one of the most tried and trusted 400-meters runners of the past six years, gave Steffensen his stamp of approval.

"Steffensen ran a brilliant race. I can't be disappointed, it's another silver after the worlds," he said in reference to his second placing in Helsinki last year.

Other track and field golds went to Dorcus Inzukuri of Uganda in the women's steeplechase, Ghana's Ignisious Gaisah won the men's long jump while England's Kelly Sotherton clinched heptathlon gold.

Mark Boswell of Canada retained the men's high jump while Valerie Vili of New Zealand took the women's shot.

For Inzukuru it was history all over again as having delivered Uganda's first ever world athletics title last year she gave them their first ever Commonwealth one.

"It was a great race for me," said Inzikuru, who finished fourth in the 5,000 meters at the 2002 Games.

"It was fantastic to win a first gold medal in the Commonwealth Games for Uganda."

Inzikuru said she had deliberately kept it to a slow pace to use Rollison as a marker.

"I ran very slow, I didn't want to leave her behind. She was a help to get to the line."

For steeplechase silver medalist Melissa Rollison of Australia, it was a desperately disappointing end to a finely run tactical race that could have netted her victory had she not stumbled at the third from last obstacle.

In diving, Wu teamed up with Alex Croak to claim silver in the women's 10 meter synchro platform diving behind compatriots Chantelle Newbury and Loudy Tourkey.

The 28-kilo, 135-centimeter diver became the darling of the crowd as she showed no nerves in her performance.

Despite the maturity displayed under the pressure of competition, Wu revealed she still had time for childhood pursuits.

"I go bug catching with my brother at home," she said. "And there was a family of ducks in our backyard at home, we had fun chasing after the ducks."

Australia's Bree Cole and Sharleen Stratton won the women's 3 meters synchro springboard while Canadian Alexandre Despatie took the men's one meter title.

Pakistan defeated Malaysia 6-5 in a brilliant men's field hockey match that lifted both teams into the semifinals at India's expense.

India coach Rajinder Singh conceded the best two teams in the group had reached the semifinals.

"It would be easy to say that I am disappointed that we did not make it, but frankly, we did not play well enough," said Singh.

Geeta Rani eased some of India's pain by winning the 75kg super-heavyweight weightlifting gold ahead of teammate Simple Kaur Bhumrah.

Updated : 2021-10-22 12:46 GMT+08:00