Kate McDonald thought she’d just be making up the numbers in the women’s beam finale.
And injured Tyson Bull wasn’t even supposed to be competing in the men’s horizontal bar final.
But both have pulled off exceptional performances to win gold and silver medals respectively on the final day of artistic gymnastics competition in Birmingham.
McDonald usurps Godwin for gold
McDonald hadn’t performed as well as she’d hoped in her main event, the uneven bars.
So she had low expectations for her final event, the beam.
The 22-year-old was the penultimate competitor, with her teammate, Georgia Godwin in the gold medal position.
McDonald was flawless and when her score came up, 13,466, she was absolutely floored.
The final gymnast, Canada’s Emma Spence, couldn’t beat the score, so McDonald claimed gold, and Godwin silver.
“I definitely was not expecting a score like that. And then I looked at my score and I was shocked that I was in first place,” McDonald said.
Godwin, who’s the team captain in Birmingham, was ecstatic to see McDonald overtake her.
“It’s just amazing, she put up the performance of a lifetime when it counted so she deserves the gold,” Godwin said.
McDonald admitted she put herself under too much pressure in the uneven bars, where she finished seventh.
That helped her let loose on the beam.
“I just I had nothing to lose, I was like I’m just going to enjoy myself. And there’s ice cream at the end so there is a no-lose situation,” she said.
Four tubs of salted caramel ice cream are now waiting as her reward.
Godwin’s glorious Games
While Emma McKeon will leave Birmingham as Australia’s most successful Commonwealth Games athlete of all time, Godwin might be the breakout star.
With the silver on the beam, the 24-year-old has finished these Games with five medals, including two gold.
She now has eight Commonwealth medals, joining Allana Slater as Australia’s most decorated women’s artistic gymnast.
“I hope it shows that Australia can get on the podium,” Godwin said.
“For a little bit it was like Australia, we’re lagging behind. But no, we’re doing some good stuff, we’ve got some incredible athletes on the team who are very new to the senior scene.
“So give them a couple of years and they’re gonna shine, watch out.”
And after last year’s independent review into the sport which found the sport had enabled a culture of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, there’s optimism the sport is moving in the right direction.
“I think it’s the team culture, everyone wants it for the team,” Godwin added.
“And that’s really helped us boost as a country.”
Bull takes advantage of ‘selfless act’
There was no greater evidence of that than in the men’s horizontal bar final, as Bull won a silver medal, in the presence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte no less.
Australia’s Jesse Moore was supposed to compete, but a shoulder injury saw him withdraw from the event.
His teammate, Clay Mason Stephens was the next best qualifier in line to join the final.
However, just as that famous moment when Craig Stevens stepped aside for Ian Thorpe ahead of the 2004 Athens Olympics, Mason Stephens sacrificed his own spot for Bull, who was Australia’s best chance of a medal in the event.
And the 29-year-old took advantage of his reprieve.
“I don’t know how to feel quite feel right now, up until last night my mind was completely off the final high bar,” he said.
“There was no wrong decision, if I decided to take that spot, there are no hard feelings.
Clay Stephens [has] the biggest heart in the world, just such a selfless act for him to forfeit that spot give me a chance on my pet event.”
Bull’s silver is even more extraordinary considering three weeks ago he seriously injured his ankle after a bad fall, and he couldn’t stick the landing in qualifying.
“It’s the first landing I’ve been able to do after a routine in maybe almost a month now,” he said.
“But coming into today there’s no chance I was making the same mistake twice and I was gonna put it on my feet no matter how much it hurt.”
Bull was on track to win gold, until the final competitor, Cyprus’ Ilias Georgiou snatched the win.
There were also two bronze medals for the Australian team, James Bacueti in the vault, and Emily Whitehead in the floor routine.
It was particularly satisfying for Whitehead, who says she’s had a difficult build up to the Games, which included the death of her grandfather.
“It’s been a pretty rough Games so just to even hit that routine was just pretty emotional for me,” she said.
“I tried to keep as positive as possible through these Games, but it’s gotten harder as each day’s gone on but to end up like that is pretty special.”
The Australian gymnastics team won nine medals overall.