Home » Ariarne Titmus gears up for Olympics with second fastest 400m freestyle in history

Ariarne Titmus gears up for Olympics with second fastest 400m freestyle in history

Freestyle queen Ariarne Titmus delivered an ominous message to her rivals at the Australian Olympic trials on Monday night, swimming the second fastest women’s 400m freestyle in history to qualify for the Paris Games.

Titmus was ahead of her own world record mark until the dying metres, finishing in 3.55.44 – just six one-hundredths of a second off the record. The two-time Olympic gold medallist is the only woman to have broken the 3 minute 56 second barrier, but faces stiff competition in Paris from Canada’s Summer McIntosh and American swim great Katie Ledecky.

“Swimming that close to the record gives me good confidence,” Titmus said after winning the opening final of the trials. “The goal isn’t to swim my best here, it’s to book your ticket – so I’m excited to see what I can do now in Paris.”

Titmus rose to fame in Tokyo by dethroning Ledecky, who had dominated women’s freestyle for the best part of a decade. The Australian also won the 200m freestyle, finished second in the 800m freestyle and earned a bronze medal in the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay. Titmus, still only 23, said she had grown in the years since her break-out performance at the last Games.

“I feel like I’m a smarter swimmer – I have so much more experience under my belt,” she said. “I’m a more well-rounded athlete, and a more well-rounded person. I’ve grown so much as a human outside of swimming in the past three years, which has made me a better athlete.”

The Tasmanian paid tribute to her rivals in what shapes up to be one of the marquee races of the Paris swim meet, which gets under way in late July. “I think it’s more satisfying in my races that to win I have to beat the greatest,” Titmus said. “That gives me more satisfaction knowing that if I do win, it is in the toughest field in the world.”

Titmus was followed home by Lani Pallister, in 4.02.27, with the 22-year-old earning a place at her first Olympics. Pallister is the daughter of Commonwealth Games gold-winning swimmer Janelle Pallister, and counts Australian swimming legend Dawn Fraser as her godmother.

Following Titmus’s early heroics, Australia’s strength in middle-distance swimming was underscored in the final event of the night, with Sam Short and Elijah Winnington both qualifying comfortably for the men’s 400m freestyle in Paris.

Winnington, the 2022 world champion, beat home Short, the 2023 world champion – although both times were slower than their respective performances at the national championships in April. “Tonight was ultimately about getting the boxed ticked and making the team,” Winnington said afterwards.

Earlier in the night three-time Tokyo gold medallist Kaylee McKeown booked her ticket to Paris in the women’s 200m individual medley. The backstroke supremo made a late decision to skip the medley race at the last Games, amid a crowded schedule, but has indicated she will contest the four-stroke discipline in Paris. McKeown’s time of 2.06.63 was a personal best and set a new Australian and Commonwealth record.

Young gun Ella Ramsay finished second in the medley and well within the qualifying time to secure her own spot on the Dolphins team for the Olympics. 19-year-old Ramsay also has a family connection to the sport – her father Heath represented Australia at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

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Australia’s relay hopes were boosted on Monday night with a breakout performance from Sam Williamson, who swam the fastest-ever time in an Australian pool in the men’s 100m breaststroke. Williamson is the world champion in the 50m discipline, but his improvement in the two-lap event will buoy Australia’s relay selectors – with the men’s breaststroke critical in both the men’s and mixed medley relay. Joshua Yong also snuck through the qualifying time by one one-hundredth of a second.

Emma McKeon, the most decorated Australian in Olympic history, cruised to qualification in the women’s 100m butterfly, followed in by Alexandria Perkins. The win secures McKeon a ticket to her third Olympics – but despite having 11 Games medals to her name, including seven golds, the 30-year-old insisted she is hungry for more.

“The Olympics is everything I’ve loved and dreamt of and watched since I was a little girl,” said McKeon. “So it’s definitely not hard to motivate myself when there’s an Olympics there.”

In the pick of the multi-class events, veteran Brenden Hall won the men’s 400m freestyle with a strong time that is likely to send him to his fifth Paralympics. Hall first competed at the 2008 Games in Beijing, where he was the youngest member of the swim team – he subsequently won two gold medals at London 2012 and one in Rio 2016.

Swimming Australia’s Olympic trials continue on Tuesday, with the women’s 100m backstroke and the men’s 200m freestyle among the featured events.