A new queen of the pool has been crowned. Twenty-year-old Australian prodigy Ariarne Titmus emphatically took the women’s swimming crown from American Katie Ledecky at Tokyo 2020 on Wednesday. Having conquered the five-time Olympic gold medallist in the marquee women’s 400m freestyle on Monday, Titmus was again too fast in the 200m freestyle final.
The Tasmanian’s two victories in 48 hours – only the first and second time Ledecky has lost individual finals in her three-Olympic outings – have seen her usurp the 24-year-old as the female swimmer to beat. Titmus can add to her two gold medals in the days ahead; she will again face Ledecky in the women’s 800m freestyle, and the pair will likely face off during the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay.
Titmus began slowly, touching fifth at the first turn, but moved up in the second lap as her rivals struggled to shake her. The Australian moved up to fourth at the 100m and was third at the final 50m. But Titmus was unstoppable in the final 25m, shaking off Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey to break the Olympic record. Penny Oleksiak took bronze, with Ledecky back in fifth.
“I’m bloody exhausted,” Titmus said. “That was a tough one – I knew Siobhan really wanted this, I could tell by the way that she swam yesterday. So I knew it would be tough to beat her. Honestly it’s not the time that I thought I could do this morning, but it’s the Olympics and there’s a lot of other things going on, so it’s just about winning here. I’m very happy.”
Australia has a historic pedigree in the women’s 200m freestyle. Susie O’Neill – in Tokyo as deputy chef de mission for the Australian Olympic Committee – won gold in 1996, while Australian swimming legend Shane Gould won the race at the Munich 1972 Games. Titmus said she was honoured to join Gould and O’Neill on the winners’ list.
“I feel good,” she said. “I’m not going to let it settle in too much – I’m only halfway through my program, it’s crazy to think that I still have the relay and the 800m to go. But I have the afternoon off now, so I’ll have a rest, come back in for a light swim and get ready for tomorrow.”
In the first event of the morning, the men’s 100m freestyle semi-finals, Australia’s Kyle Chalmers – the champion medallist in Rio – qualified comfortably for Thursday’s final. The Russian Olympic Committee’s Kliment Kolesnikov was the fastest qualifier, but faces a tough battle with Chalmers and American Caleb Dressel in the gold medal race.
The action at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre continues throughout Wednesday morning. In the last race of the morning, the men’s 4x200m relay, will pit Great Britain, Australia and the United States in what looks set to be a thrilling finale.