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Rising star Mollie O’Callaghan upsets Olympic champ Ariarne Titmus at QLD titles

by ZwemZa on December 13th, 2021

Mollie O’Callaghan competes in the heats of the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay in Tokyo. Picture: Adam HeadSource: News Corp Australia

Young gun Mollie O’Callaghan has caused a massive upset at the Queensland state swimming championships, upstaging Olympic champion Ariarne Titmus in the 200m freestyle.

O’Callaghan set a world junior record leading off the 4x200m freestyle relay in the heats at the Tokyo Games but was a controversial omission from the final in which Australia eventually finished third and is a rising star of the sport.

The 17-year-old, who also trains with Titmus under Dean Boxall at St Peters Western, won the opening individual final of the state titles by 0.85sec from her clubmate, touching the wall in 1min 56.51sec.

Titmus had a lengthy break after an outstanding Olympic campaign that reaped gold medals in the 200m and 400m freestyle, silver in the 800m freestyle and a relay bronze and is just returning to training.

Already in heavy work, she has a massive program at the state titles this week, racing every freestyle event from the 50m to the 1500m.

O’Callaghan led the race from state to finish, with Titmus unable to haul her in down the final lap, despite closing the gap to 0.25sec at the final turn, O’Callaghan finishing with a blistering final 50m of 28.84sec.

Also a heat swimmer in Australia’s gold medal-winning 4x100m freestyle and medley relays, O’Callaghan returned from the Olympics with three medals to her name but is set to become a star in her own right.

O’Callaghan and Titmus finished ahead of Olympians Brianna Throssell and Kiah Melverton in a class field that included seven Olympians.

She backed up her big win over Titmus by taking a further two gold on Sunday night, winning the 17-18 years 100m backstroke and open women’s 100m backstroke.

“I was really happy with my freestyle, I think it was about a second away from my PB,” she said.

“I was so happy with what I came away with and what I did at the Olympics, it was really surprising because it was my first open international meet.

“I wasn’t too disappointed not swimming the finals — at first I was but I understand, I don’t have as much experience as the other girls and it was amazing to see them race and see the atmosphere and get to learn from them.”

Coming off a long post-Olympic break, O’Callaghan is ready to establish herself as a genuine individual star in 2022 — a year that includes world championships and Commonwealth Games.

Olympic relay medallist Thomas Neill won the men’s 200m freestyle by almost a second from Tokyo Games teammate Elijah Winnington, beating the Gold Coaster by almost a full second to claim the title in 1:47.28.

Mitch Larkin won the men’s 100m backstroke in 53.80 ahead of teen Olympian Isaac Cooper in his first major hitout under new coach Vince Raleigh.

From the social circuit to the pain train, Ariarne Titmus has set herself modest expectations as she marks her return to racing at the Queensland swimming titles in Brisbane with a kamikaze style program starting on Sunday.

Titmus and fellow Olympic gold medallist Zac Stubblety-Cook headline the names making their racing comebacks post-Tokyo at the six-day state titles at Chandler, the first step towards a congested 2022 calendar that includes a world titles and Commonwealth Games.

The event marks the return to racing for sprint freestyler Shayna Jack, her first major race since she served a reduced two-year doping ban.

All eyes will be on Jack as she embarks upon her first official race since being hit with the suspension for unwittingly ingesting a banned substance.

Jack will hit the water for the 100m freestyle on Monday, with Titmus a curious entrant as she prepares to contest every freestyle race of the meet ranging all the way from the 50m sprint to 1500m test of endurance.

Titmus, the Olympic 200m and 400m champion, is aiming to be within 10 seconds of her 400m time from Tokyo but knows she is coming off a low base after she took a couple of months off after the Games to enjoy a social life, fulfil sponsorship endorsements and capitalise on her new-found status as a double Olympic gold medallist.

“It’s just about getting in there and doing your best and seeing where you are at,” Titmus said.

“I know my swimming is not at the level that it usually is.

“I’m just excited to have fun while racing … I’ll be happy if I can swim a PB plus 10 in the 400m freestyle after taking it pretty slow, easing it back in.

“The past two years have been so full on; I could not have imaged getting straight back into training or racing I just needed that break.

“Even now I’m still not ready mentally where I was at prior to the Olympics; I’m still trying to enjoy swimming for what it is without much pressure so this weekend racing there is no pressure on myself … from my coach Dean Boxall or me.

“I wasn’t expecting to swim fast now I want to be peaking for the middle of next year.”

Fellow Olympic golden girls Emma McKeon and Kaylee McKeown will skip the state titles, McKeon having just returned from a 90-race mission through Europe as part of the International Swim League and World Cup circuit while McKeown is resting a shoulder injury and is restricted to just kicking in training sets.

Tokyo relay gold medallists Chelsea Hodges, Meg Harris and Mollie O’Callaghan will also make their returns to racing alongside fellow Dolphins Brenden Smith, Brianna Throssell, Tamsin Cook, Isaac Cooper and Tommy Neill.

O’Callaghan is set to be one of the busiest on pool deck, entered in 13 events including open and age group races.

Emma Greenwood and Todd Balym from News Corp Australia Sports Newsroom

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