By Greg Stutchbury
GOLD COAST, Australia (Reuters) – A silver medal in the women’s 100 meters butterfly at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games on Friday was all that Australia’s Madeline Groves needed to put a terrible 2017 behind her.
The 22-year-old, who had set a Commonwealth Games record in the semi-finals on Thursday, finished fast but was unable to catch compatriot Emma McKeon in the final few strokes as the hosts completed a clean sweep of the medals.
McKeon set a Commonwealth record of 56.78 seconds to beat Groves, whose 57.19 was faster than the time she swam on Thursday. Brianna Throssell took the bronze.
“I’m very emotional right now,” Groves said. “This has validated everything I’ve been through, and all the hard work I’ve done.
“To be up there one, two, three with the girls, it really doesn’t get better than this.”
Friday’s result followed the silver she won in the 200m butterfly at the Rio Olympics, when Spain’s Mireia Belmonte beat her by 0.03 seconds and her career, it seemed, was only going up.
Instead, it came crashing down around her in 2017.
While training in the United States, Groves was notified she had breached anti-doping whereabouts rules for the third time in a 12-month period and she faced the possibility of a two-year ban.
Fellow Australian team mates Jarrod Poort and 2014 Commonwealth Games 200m freestyle gold medalist Thomas Fraser-Holmes were given one-year bans for the same offense.
Groves, however, was able to successfully have the third missed test overturned when she argued testers had not done enough to find her at the time and place she had designated.
She maintained she had been waiting for testers in her room, but they had not gone beyond the building’s front desk nor tried to contact her by telephone.
While she was fighting the whereabouts breach, she also had to undergo surgery to combat endometriosis.
“Honestly, I really struggled in 2017,” she said.
“There were a few times when I thought I couldn’t come back.
“I doubted I could even make the team, so to be here and be on the medal dais with two of my team mates is so special.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Christian Radnedge)