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A worthy challenger arrives but Titmus sweeps a golden meet

by ZwemZa on August 4th, 2022

Australia’s Kiah Melverton (left) won bronze with rising Canadian star Summer McIntosh second.Credit:Getty

Even at the Commonwealth Games, minus the might of Team USA and the enduring wonder that is Katie Ledecky, there is no such thing as an easy night at the office for Ariarne Titmus in her pet 400m freestyle event.

The Australian showed the kind of qualities that have made her a modern great to win her fourth gold medal of the meet on Wednesday night (Thursday morning AEST) in Birmingham, with the 400m win a worthy addition to the 200m, 800m and 4x200m relay jewels already in her keeping.

After her brilliance in Tokyo, expectation now weighs heavily on the 21-year-old, as it has been for Ledecky for so long. Whenever she races, people expect world records to either be broken or threatened within an inch of their existence.

She wasn’t close to her own mark (3:56.40) this time but 3:58.06 was a mighty swim just a day after her 800m victory. It represented the fourth fastest 400m of her career and seventh-fastest of all time, with that list being dominated by Titmus and Ledecky.

But that won’t be the case for long because another name beckons. Summer McIntosh, the 15-year-old Canadian, refused to go away and produced the second sub-four minute swim of her career to take silver in 3:59.32, with Australia’s Kiah Melverton winning bronze.

Titmus turned up the heat on McIntosh in the middle hundreds and was able to earn a body-length break, but no more. McIntosh has so much improvement to come and Titmus and coach Dean Boxall not only recognise the threat but welcome it.

The run towards Paris and their clash at the next Olympics will be mesmerising. For now, Titmus is still the middle-distance titan and more than content with her week of work.

“I’m really happy. This meet was more about coming here and having fun and racing. I’m happy to get the job done, she (McIntosh) pushed me the whole way, I knew she would be there,” Titmus said.

“The back half of this program has been really challenging with the 800m last night. I didn’t really have any expectations, I just wanted to do my best and mentally be there. I think I did that.”

Most observers think the Commonwealth Games is a walk in the park for Australia’s top swimmers but Titmus sliced that another way. She said the immense expectation to boss the racing in the pool conjured pressure of a different kind.

“In Australia, we pride ourselves on success in the pool at the Commonwealth Games. It feels like there is more pressure here to win than the Olympics sometimes. Performing under that pressure is tough; I felt the expectation, especially after last year,” Titmus said.

“I’m excited to get the job done for me and for the country. I definitely got pushed more than I did on the Gold Coast (2018) but that’s great, it means the sport is moving. I’m not really one of those youngsters that is up and coming anymore, I guess, they are chasing me.”

Unlike Tokyo, Titmus had some familiar faces in the stand. Her family, with father Steve and mum Robyn leading the charge, have lapped up every moment at the Sandwell Aquatic Centre, resplendent in their ‘Team Titmus’ shirts that have more than a touch of mid-90s Australia A cricket about them.

It was fitting they could share in her delight because she remains one of the genuine global superstars of a sport that has well and truly emerged from its post-Michael Phelps slumber. Knowing her drive for greatness, Titmus has just scratched the surface of what she is capable of delivering in her next chapter.

By Phil Lutton | The Sydney Morning Herald

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