BIRMINGHAM - The spanking new Sandwell Aquatic Centre in Smethwick opened its doors on Friday (July 29) morning, as fans filled the £73 million (S$122 million) 5,000-seat arena to catch the first day of the Commonwealth Games' swimming action.
Located in Smethwick, an industrial town in the West Midlands, the facility is host to some of the Games' biggest swimming stars for the X-day meet. While British breaststroke king Adam Peaty was not in Friday's line-up, local supporters joined other travelling fans to cheer on their favourites, including England's 50m freestyle world champion Ben Proud, Australia's Emma McKeon and Canadian Maggie MacNeil.
No doubt the biggest name on the starting blocks was Aussie double Olympic champion Ariarne Titmus, but the home crowd also reserved their cheers for slower swimmers from different nations.
Singapore's swimming contingent were also happy to get their Commonwealth Games campaign under way, with Teong Tzen Wei and Mikkel Lee the first in action in the men's 50m butterfly.
Both swimmers qualified for the semi-finals, which will take place on Friday night, after finishing 11th and seventh overall in the heats.
"It's always good to break the ice - first race is always exciting and a bit nervous because you don't know everything that's going to happen and the pool is new," said Teong, who clocked a personal best of 23.03 seconds in the event in June to make the final at the Fina World Championships.
"I'm quite happy because I made the semis and that was my goal - moving on to the semis and then hoping to make the finals after that."
Other Singaporeans also made it to the semi-finals or finals of five other events, including the mixed 4x100m freestyle and men's 200m breaststroke finals.
The quartet of Amanda Lim, Quah Jing Wen, Darren Chua and Jonathan Tan clocked 3min 33.71sec to finish sixth out of 19 in the mixed 4x100m free, while Maximillian Ang was fifth out of 20 in 2:12.27.
Quah Zheng Wen, who qualified for the semi-finals after clocking 55.67sec in the men's 100m backstroke heats, said: "The first race is always the hard one for every competition so I'm glad I managed to get that one out of the way... looking forward to the rest.
"This is our third competition in a row, I'm just here racing, doing my best and seeing where training is for me."
After making her international bow at May's SEA Games where she won three golds, a silver and a bronze, Letitia Sim clinched a semi-final berth in the women's 50m breaststroke after clocking 31.67sec to finish 11th.
The 19-year-old, who also competed at the World Championships in June, said: "That was really exciting because the first event, everyone got behind the blocks and it got quiet super fast, I got nervous really quickly.
"Commonwealth Games is between SEA Games and worlds, which is a little bit more comfortable to come back down after worlds. It feels a bit smaller, more comfortable, not too much stress. I'm really excited for this meet and all my races."