Australian Ariarne Titmus accomplished what many thought wasn’t possible when she beat Olympic icon Katie Ledecky in the women’s 400m freestyle at the 2019 FINA World Championships.
Entering the meet, American Ledecky had never been beaten in the event at an international competition but Titmus accomplished the feat, setting her trajectory toward Tokyo with an eye on Olympic gold.
Now fewer than 10 days out from the Games’ opening ceremonies, Titmus is gearing up for a series of freestyle battles, not just in the 400m but also in the 200m, 800m freestyle event and in the 800m free relay. Should she top the podium in any of the former, Titmus would become Tasmania’s first-ever individual Olympic gold medalist.
Speaking with The Examiner recently, 20-year-old Titmus said of her upcoming competition, “In the races I’m in I think I’m going to have to be absolutely at my best form to win with Katie in the field and she’s the reigning Olympic champion so it’s going to be a tough one to get my hand on the wall first.
“The pressure that I put on myself and Dean, my coach, puts on me to perform is higher than the pressure I feel from the public. Honestly, I don’t know whether it’s something in my mind or the way I am but I don’t feel the pressure too much. I see things and read them and kind of go ‘yeah, whatever, they are not the ones who have to do the race’ so I kind of look at it that way.
“Pressure’s a privilege and something that I have to use to help me swim fast and use my nerves as well because I know that when I’m nervous and excited it means that the race matters and I’m going to get the best out of myself when I feel that energy. I just have to take it all in, utilise it as best I can and hope that I can perform for our country.”
Although Titmus is an Olympic rookie, she has already racked up accolades to the tune of short course and long course world champion, Pan Pacific champion and Commonwealth Games champion.
As such, Titmus said, “Even though this is my first Olympics I’ve actually been on the team since December 2016 so I feel like I’ve definitely made my way into the team and feel comfortable with everyone and I can play a role in the team. That’s something that’s really exciting. When I first made the team I was 16 years old quite young and naive and looked up to other people but now it’s crazy to think as a 20-year-old I’m now kind of a resident on the team but it’s nice.”
Titmus enters Tokyo ranked #1 in the world this season in the 200m and 400m free and #2 in the world behind Ledecky in the 800m free.