Well, we now know how good Ariarne Titmus is. The next question is, how good will she be?
At these current Games, Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka was eliminated early after missing the French Open and Wimbledon due to mental stress, and American superstar gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from team competition, admitted to ‘fighting my head’ , and then discontinued the individual gold medal event as well.
Australian basketball player Liz Cambage didn’t even make it to Tokyo. During an investigation into alleged incidents during the pre-Olympic camp in Las Vegas, she withdrew because she also had mental health problems.
And after Titmus, 20, defeated American great Katie Ledecky to win the 400m freestyle in her first-ever Olympic swim on Monday, I wrote a column putting her in the same company as some of Australia’s biggest names.
One reader was not impressed.
“Just one gold. If you win another we’ll add you to the list,” wrote Mr Jack Hudson from London, UK.
Well Jack, that’s exactly what she did, adding Wednesday’s 200m freestyle and another win over Ledecky to her Olympic resume.
Australia’s pool golden girl – Ariarne Titmus – has the chance to become an Olympic legend
Ariarne Titmus is only 20, but already a two-time Olympic champion after her stunning performance in the pool in Tokyo
American superstar gymnast Simone Biles retired from team competition, admitted she ‘fought with my head’, then also retired from individual gold medal event
Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka was eliminated early after missing the French Open and Wimbledon due to mental stress
Shane Gould and Ian Thorpe are the only other Australian Olympians to have won the 200m-400m freestyle doubles, putting Titmus in elite company.
With two races – the 800m and 4x200m relay – still to take place in Tokyo, she also has the chance to join Gould, from Munich in 1972, as the only Australian to win three individual gold medals at a single Games .
But those words “on one Games” are key to the position Titmus will eventually occupy in the pantheon of Olympic legends.
It may seem premature to talk about an athlete’s legacy now that she’s only halfway through her first Olympics, but while she’s made a huge splash in Tokyo, there’s one more important box Titmus needs to tick before she’s next to the very best. can stand. .
The Americans would laugh if we even considered placing Titmus in the same class of Olympic swimming greats as Michael Phelps, who won 11 individual gold medals in four Olympics, or Ledecky, who won the 1500m freestyle in Tokyo. her individual to six golds at three Olympics.
Only one Australian swimmer has won individual gold at three Olympics, and that was Dawn Fraser in the 100m freestyle in Melbourne 1956, Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964.
Young Australian swimmer Ariarne Titmus chases gold medal against American superstar Katie Ledecky
The Tasmanian-born swimmer took on American superstar Katie Ledecky at the Tokyo Olympics — beating her in the 200- and 400-meter freestyle finals (pictured, with her coach Dean Boxall)
American swimming great Katie Ledecky (pictured) not expected to lose in Tokyo – but is shocked by Australian Ariarne Titmus in the finals of the 200m and 400m freestyle
Murray Rose, David Thiele, Kieren Perkins, Susie O’Neill, Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett all won individual golds at two Games and that will be the primary target for Titmus after she overcomes the euphoria of Tokyo.
Can she achieve what other single-games stars like multiple gold medalists Shane Gould, Michael Wenden and Stephanie Rice couldn’t?
At the moment, her chances look good. She is only 20 years old and it is planned that the next Olympics will be held in Paris in three years instead of the usual four years.
But as Gould, Wenden, and Rice could tell her, it’s not easy to back up, no matter how dominant you’ve been during your first Games.
In fact, those three swimmers contain all the pits of lifestyle changes, injuries and psychological pressures Titmus will have to avoid if she is to become the Olympic great her many supporters predict.
Wenden was just 19 when he won the 100m-200m freestyle double in world record time at the 1968 Mexico Games.
Long life in the pool is key for Ariarne Titmus if she is to be considered in the same breath as swimming legend Ian Thorpe (pictured)
Four years later, standing in line in Munich, much had happened to the carefree teenager who had arrived in Mexico City as a stranger and left behind a swimming superstar. He was a full-time university student, supporting a wife and daughter. He had also split with his longtime coach Vic Arneill and coached himself for a time.
As if that wasn’t enough, 1972 heralded the arrival of yet another new kid on the block: American Mark Spitz who would turn the Munich swimming pool into his own personal playground with seven gold medals.
Wenden finished fifth in the 100m and fourth in the 200m.
Stephanie Rice won the 200m and 400m medley and set world records in both events in 2008 in Beijing. For the next four years she was the darling of the Australian media, her romantic life being as interesting as anything she did in the pool.
Not surprising, as her form in the water leading up to the London Olympics was a far cry from anything she had produced in Beijing. Hampered by three shoulder surgeries, she could only handle a fourth and sixth in her two pet events and retired two years later.
Shane Gould won three gold medals in world record time at the Munich Games in 1972 – a year later, at the age of 16, she retired from competitive swimming, citing pressures placed on her by her success and media profile
Shane Gould was way ahead of her time in and out of the water. At the age of 15, she won three gold medals in world record time at the Munich Games. A year later, she had retired and suffered from undetected mental health problems caused by competitive pressure and public expectations.
In the early 1970s, such a diagnosis would have been unheard of. It wasn’t until nearly 20 years later, when she read a paper by a Western Australian psychologist, that Gould realized that what she had experienced was not unusual.
And that was in the days before social media and the public’s obsession with sporting celebrities.
Over the next three years, the previously unannounced Titmus will be subject to the same public scrutiny, corporate obligations and media attention as fellow Olympic swimmers such as Phelps, Hackett, Thorpe and Petria Thomas — all of whom have battled the psychological pressures associated with sporting success.
Stephanie Rice (pictured) won three gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics — then found public expectation unforgiving and stifling
From the sidelines, it looks like Titmus has the right temperament to handle anything that comes in or out of the water.
Her body language leading up to the first of her three-race showdown with the formidable Ledecky was icy cold, as was her attitude after a heart-pounding victory in the 400m final.
The way she left the gold medal feat to back up two days later and repeat the feat in the 200m was even more impressive.
Calm, articulate and able to follow her coach Dean Boxall’s race plan to the letter, despite what is happening around her, she sees her crowned as the undisputed Ice Queen of the pool.
Three years later in Paris, after inheriting the target that lay on Ledecky’s back this week, she will need all those qualities and more.
As four-time gold medalist Simone Biles said after her shocking withdrawal from the team event, ‘Coming here to the Olympics and being the main star is not an easy feat, so we’re looking at it day by day’.
That’s exactly the way Ariarne Titmus likes to play it.