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Coach Dean Boxall challenges Ariarne Titmus to find new level as hungry young guns rise

by ZwemZa on December 20th, 2021

Ariarne Titmus (right) with new training partner Kiah Melverton after winning the 400m freestyle on return to competition at the Queensland state championships at Brisbane Aquatic Centre last week. Picture: David Clark

The architect of Ariarne Titmus’s Tokyo triumph says his charge has to decide whether she wants to climb the mountain again if she is going to leave a lasting legacy in the sport.

Titmus, who won two individual gold medals in Tokyo, including in the 400m freestyle after a thrilling duel with US distance great Katie Ledecky, returned to competition at the Queensland state titles at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre last week.

She struggled through a heavy program while in full training, winning her pet event but being beaten in the 200m freestyle – her other gold-medal event in Tokyo – by training partner Mollie O’Callaghan.

“Arnie’s just trying to find her feet back in swimming again,” coach Dean Boxall said.

Boxall, of course, is the man who became famous worldwide for his post-race celebrations following Titmus’s win over Ledecky in Tokyo.

As committed a character as you will find to his swimmers, Boxall admitted even he had found the post-Tokyo reset challenging and said Titmus would have to find a new focus and dedication if she wanted to repeat her Olympic success in Paris in 2024.

“It’s very difficult,” Boxall said.

“I mean, I struggled. It’s very difficult.

“It’s just this release, you’ve climbed the highest mountain, you’ve actually done it, whereas after worlds (2019 world championships) you knew you still had Olympics and you never had that release.”

The release for Boxall was enormous given it was not just Titmus he helped climb the mountain but teenage sprinters Mollie O’Callaghan and Meg Harris, who both won gold medals as relay swimmers in Tokyo.

While Harris has switched programs, heading to South Australia to join Kyle Chalmers’ coach Peter Bishop, Boxall is as busy as ever with his St Peters Western program, with O’Callaghan an athlete on the rise, Shayna Jack newly returned to the sport and hungrier than ever for success and young gun Elijah Winnington focused on Paris after qualifying fastest for the 400m final in Tokyo but missing the podium.

“They’re all close,” he said of his squad, which also now includes Olympic finalist Kiah Melverton, who has joined from the Gold Coast.

“They’re going to form that bond now with Elijah (Winnington) in training.

“But they know they’ve got a big block of training coming in the next four months. This (lead-in to the state titles) has all been beach party stuff.”

Returning to the top will be a difficult path for each athlete, but Titmus treads an even trickier route, especially with so many hungry young swimmers snapping at her heels.

“You’ve just got to be going back into who you are as an athlete – if you’re that person that’s very hungry and you want success and you understand that you haven’t achieved it, then that should be right in front of your face,” Boxall said.

“For Arnie, it’s a little bit of a different story. She’s going to have to be a little bit better (to create) a legacy, because if she’s not, these girls will go way past her, and they’ll go past her very quickly.

“There’s a lot of hungry swimmers around the world and there’s some in her squad.”

As always, Titmus will have Ledecky pushing her on, with the seven-time Olympic gold medallist having switched programs in the US and pushed out outstanding times to win several events at the recent US Open.

“It’s good. But we know … Katie’s Katie, she’s the GOAT. She always does that,” Boxall said.

More than the swimming, Titmus will have to come to terms now with something that Ledecky has been dealing with since winning her first Olympic gold in London as a 15-year-old.

“Arnie has to deal with this side now – of having that extraordinary race and winning,” Boxall said.

How she deals with that will determine her place in history.

Emma Greenwood | News Corp Australia

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