Australian swimming sensation Ariarne Titmus looks ahead to a third showdown with American great Katie Ledecky
Ariarne Titmus says she can swim with freedom for the rest of the Tokyo Olympics now that her toughest and most terrifying events are over.
“The two big ones are out of the way,” the swimming queen said after collecting her second gold medal of the Games.
Titmus is the third Australian swimmer to complete a double 200m-400m freestyle at an Olympics, alongside legends Shane Gould (1972) and Ian Thorpe (2004).
The 20-year-old joins a group of celebrated swimmers to win two individual gold medals in the singles Games: Gould, Thorpe, Michael Wenden, Murray Rose and Stephanie Rice.
Ariarne Titmus becomes the third Australian swimmer to complete a 200m-400m freestyle double at an Olympics and says she can now swim with freedom ahead of the rest of the Tokyo Olympics with the scariest events over
And Titmus, with the 800m freestyle and 4x200m freestyle relay on the horizon, is on the brink of history, but largely unaware of it.
The Tasmanian has shut down social media and the outside world in general during the competition.
“I live in my own little world,” she said.
“I heard that Simone (Biles) might have withdrawn from the team event, but I haven’t read anything about it.
“Honestly, I’m just focusing on myself and what I have to do here.
“It’s actually a bit strange at an Olympics and there are multiple events going on.
“But I feel like when you have such a narrow focus, you just think about what you’re doing.
“And to me this just feels like another swimming competition, so I’m really not looking out too much.”
Titmus just finished the 800m freestyle and 4x200m freestyle relay that stands on the brink of history
Helping to maintain that ‘another swim meet’ vibe, the lack of crowds.
“The seating for the athletes and the coaches out there creates a pretty great atmosphere, it just kind of feels like a swimming competition at home in Australia,” Titmus said.
“And I pretend that everyone is cheering for me.
“But if you’re in your zone, it doesn’t really matter. We’re all here for a quick swim.
“It’s really disappointing that the Japanese people can’t come and see us and that’s quite sad.
“But I feel like we can all swim fast with the athletes in the stands.”
Titmus will be the main plank in the Australian 4x200m relay team, a gold medal contender.
But she’s more likely to take down American rival Katie Ledecky in the 800m.
Titmus takes on American great Katie Ledecky (pictured) in their third matchup in the 4x200m freestyle relay
“We have a great chance in the relay tomorrow and that will be very exciting and then on to the 800 to finish the line,” she said.
‘I feel fine. I used the rest I have as much as possible so this afternoon I will try to relax and reset and focus on tomorrow.
“This meeting, while it’s challenging for me to go through multiple events, it’s moving fast, so I feel like I’ll be ready for it.”
Whether Titmus’ performances in the 200 and 400 left any scars on Ledecky remains to be seen – the American took a 1500m gold after finishing fifth in the 200.
But Australia’s most successful Olympian, Thorpe, believes so.
And he believes Titmus has the steel to dominate a rivalry that will define a generation.
“(Ledecky) has been so dominant in swimming…she has been so much better than any other athlete in the world,” Thorpe, with five golds in his Olympic collection of nine medals, told Seven Network.
‘And then someone like Ariarne Titmus comes along and was inspired by her.
“But she (Titmus) is better than she now. She’s removed…two of the events that Katie Ledecky can win.
Now that Ledecky is only 24, Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe believes the match between Titmus and Ledecky could go on for years to come
And we have to remember: Katie Ledecky is 24, it’s not like she’s a 28-year-old, 30-year-old looking forward to her retirement after these Games.
“This could be a game against these two in the coming years.”
Ledecky, a five-time Olympic gold medalist and fifteen-time world champion, had proven her mental strength over time.
“Katie Ledecky majored in psychology, so I’m going to say ‘well, technically it probably shouldn’t get in the head,'” he said.
“But I think she might be.
“It’s one of those things that there’s a level of mutual respect between the two of them, which is great to see.”
Titmus himself said that Ledecky’s fifth place needed context.
“This was probably the deepest field of all my events,” she said.
“I felt like it could have been anyone’s race.”