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Ariarne Titmus beats Katie Ledecky for gold in 400m freestyle final at Tokyo Olympics


Australian swimming champ Ariarne Titmus has won the gold medal in the women’s 400m freestyle at the Tokyo Olympics. 

The 20-year-old triumphed in a titanic final on Monday, coming from behind to defeat the United States’ five-time Olympic champion Katie Ledecky.

Titmus’ achievement is Australia’s second gold medal of the Tokyo Games, following the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay success.

And it delivers Ledecky, regarded as the greatest female swimmer ever, her first defeat in an Olympic final.  

Coach Dean Boxall could not contain his excitement and was spotted erupting into applause, tearing off his face mask and almost throwing it into the stands.

Titmus snatched victory away from her US rival and five-time Olympic champion Katie Ledecky after recording 3:56.69 minutes

Australian swimming phenom Ariarne Titmus has won gold and placed first in the 400m freestyle final

Australian swimming phenom Ariarne Titmus has won gold and placed first in the 400m freestyle final

Ledecky followed in second place with less than a second difference after finishing in 3:57.36 minutes

Ledecky followed in second place with less than a second difference after finishing in 3:57.36 minutes

Titmus and Ledecky show dazzling sportsmanship congratulating each together following the intense 400m freestyle race

Titmus and Ledecky show dazzling sportsmanship congratulating each together following the intense 400m freestyle race

Titmus and Ledecky dominated the 400m freestyle from the outset with both swimmers vying for first place.

The pair pulled well ahead of the pack by the first 200 metres with a 1.88 second difference between third place Canadian swimmer McIntosh and second-place Titmus.   

The Australian swimmer, in lane three, kept watch on Ledecky in lane four in what became the ultimate race between the pair.

The American held the lead for the initial 300m but Titmus was watching her all the way, literally lurking at her heels.

The young Australian ominously surged closer and was just 0.16 seconds behind Ledecky with 100m remaining.

Titmus then reeled in her rival in a perfectly-executed race plan to win by half a body-length in a time of three minutes 56.69 seconds. 

Ledecky touched home in 3:57.36 and China’s Li Bingjie was well back in third position in 4:01.08.

Titmus and Ledecky will also square off in a much-hyped 200m freestyle battle, though the American is favoured to win their duel over 800m. 

Buzz had been generated around the race as Titmus prepared to square off against Ledecky.  

Titmus, 20, said she was aware of not over-exerting herself ahead of Monday’s medal clash of the two biggest stars of women’s swimming.

Buzz had been generated ahead of the race as Titmus was set to challenge Ledecky for the top gong

Buzz had been generated ahead of the race as Titmus was set to challenge Ledecky for the top gong

Titmus celebrates the momentous win after beating US rival Katie Ledecky for the top gong in the 400m freestyle

Titmus celebrates the momentous win after beating US rival Katie Ledecky for the top gong in the 400m freestyle

Titmus then reeled in her rival in a perfectly-executed race plan to win by half a body-length in a time of three minutes 56.69 seconds

Titmus then reeled in her rival in a perfectly-executed race plan to win by half a body-length in a time of three minutes 56.69 seconds

The pair pulled well ahead of the pack by the first 200 metres with a 1.88 second difference between third place Canadian swimmer McIntosh and second-place Titmus

The pair pulled well ahead of the pack by the first 200 metres with a 1.88 second difference between third place Canadian swimmer McIntosh and second-place Titmus

‘I felt really good, probably the most relaxed I’ve actually felt in a while… I felt like tonight was really about trying to conserve your emotions for tomorrow morning, so I’m happy to be in one of the middle lanes in the morning,’ she said. 

‘I’d like to think I’ve got a bit more on the tank for the final. I’m relieved it’s finally here and I know that I’ve done the work,’ she added

Ledecky, 24, the world record holder and Olympic champion in the event, finished her heat in 4:00.45 with China’s Li Bingjie posting 4:01.57 and Titmus managing 4:01.66.

‘It’s always good to get the first race under the belt. I felt confident and relaxed going into it,’ said Ledecky.

‘It’s going to be a great race with Ariarne. I’m really excited to be in that first final tomorrow… we have put in really good work over the last five weeks or so. It´s good to get out there,’ she added.  

The Australian swimmer, in lane three, kept watch on Ledecky in lane four in what became the utimate match race between the pair

The Australian swimmer, in lane three, kept watch on Ledecky in lane four in what became the utimate match race between the pair

Titmus and Ledecky dominated the race from the outset with both swimmers vying for first place

Titmus and Ledecky dominated the race from the outset with both swimmers vying for first place 

For nine years, since bursting on the world scene aged 15 at the 2012 London Olympics where she won the 800m freestyle, Ledecky has ruled the pool.

A year after London, she dominated the world championships in Barcelona, taking gold in the 400m, 800m and 1500m. 

In 2015 at the world championships in Kazan, Russia, she went one better, defending her three titles and adding the 200m freestyle for good measure.

Then came the Rio Olympics, where she totally demoralised her rivals in the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle.

Tasmanian-born, Brisbane-based Titmus remembers watching on TV as a 15-year-old when Ledecky snared her three-gold medal haul in Rio, setting world records in the 400m and 800m. 

Titmus snatched victory away from her US rival and five-time Olympic champion Katie Ledecky after recording 3:56.69 minutes

Titmus snatched victory away from her US rival and five-time Olympic champion Katie Ledecky after recording 3:56.69 minutes

It was her ruthless performance in the 800m, which she won by nearly 12 seconds, that earned her the title ‘The Dominator’ and had up-and-comer Titmus shaking her head in awe.

‘No-one is ever going to get near this chick,’ Titmus recalls thinking. 

But Titmus herself went on to beat the seemingly un-beatable swimming power house.  

At the 2019 world championships held in Gwangju, South Korea, Titmus handed Ledecky her first defeat in 28 races at major events when she swam over the top of her 20 metres out from the wall to win the 400m freestyle final by 1.21 seconds. 

More to come 



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