HISTORY was made at Birmingham 2022 last night as Gemma Atherley became the first swimmer to represent Jersey in a Commonwealth Games final.
The 24-year-old competed in the women’s 200m backstroke showdown alongside reigning Olympic champion Kaylee McKeown and Tokyo 2020 silver medalist Kylie Masse, after qualifying seventh with a solid performance in the heats at the Sandwell Aquatics Center.
Atherley finished eighth in the medal fight in 2min 18.53sec – the best women’s finish for Jersey since 2002, when Natalie Brée reached the 100m backstroke and 100m breaststroke semi-finals in Manchester. She was two-tenths behind Scotland’s Cassie Wild in seventh.
‘I came out very strong [in the heat] because I knew if I wanted to make the final I had to swim close to my best time,” Atherley explained. “When I saw the heat sheets I didn’t expect to be so high ranked but I’m so happy I got the most out of this one.
“I really put everything into it. I am very proud and very happy.
Atherley kicked off day four with a strong outing alongside Games record holder Masse of Canada yesterday morning. The Islander clocked 2:17.47 as McKeown led the way in the overall in 2.10.95.
Following an appearance by Olympic Games champion and world record holder Adam Peaty in the men’s 50m breaststroke, Lily Scott then broke a nine-year-old Island record, previously held by Emily Bathforth, in a women’s 100m heat m freestyle which featured three Channel Islanders. A time of 57.84 seconds was enough to clinch second place in round five, with Guernsey’s Orla Rabey finishing fifth and Atherley eighth.
“It was a tough race, but I’m really happy to have achieved a big personal best,” a breathless Scott said immediately after exiting the pool. “I just wanted to go out and do my best and enjoy the atmosphere. It’s such an amazing experience; being able to race against the best in the world is so cool.
Robbie Jones and Harry Shalamon went on to win their respective heats in the men’s 100m butterfly – the latter with a new island record of 54.89 seconds. Jones hit home in 56.83 seconds, with Jack Allan placing eighth, behind Shalamon, in 57.10 seconds.
Shalamon – the first Jersey swimmer to dive below 55 seconds – was 0.8 seconds from a place in the semis.
Scott capped off a memorable day for the seven-man swim team with a run in the 800m heats, although she had to settle for the ‘first reserve’ spot for tonight’s final after wrapping up 16 lengths in 9min 27.99sec.