Swimming: Australia’s day in the pool was one to remember, with Ariarne Titmus defeating US legend Katie Ledecky to take out the gold, while Kyle Chalmers anchored the Aussie …
Swimming: Australia’s day in the pool was one to remember, with Ariarne Titmus defeating US legend Katie Ledecky to take out the gold, while Kyle Chalmers anchored the Aussie men to a bronze medal in the 4x100m freestyle final.
Australia is still basking in the glory of Ariarne Titmus’ golden swim in the 400m freestyle final but over in the States, they’re recovering from the shock of seeing their wonderwoman dethroned.
Titmus took the lead on the final lap and stormed home to pip Katie Ledecky, handing the American her first ever defeat in an individual final at an Olympics. The five-time gold-medallist, who is already one of the greatest swimmers in history, pulled out the second fastest time of her career but it still wasn’t enough to get past the girl from Tasmania.
Titmus’ coach Dean Boxall summed up the mood in Australia as he went bonkers in the stands. As if seeing Ledecky outgunned for the first time at a Games wasn’t enough for America, Boxall’s pelvic thrusts only rubbed salt into the wound.
However, not everyone in the US was enamoured with Boxall’s antics. Some accused him of hogging the limelight when his pupil should have been the sole star of the show.
Sports podcaster Lindsay Gibbs was worried about how America would focus on what happened outside the water rather than in it.
“I can already foresee Titmus’ uncomfortably aggressive coach getting more media attention in the US than she does, and I am pre-emptively very, very, very annoyed by it!!” she tweeted.
In response to a tweet from Aussie tennis coach Brad Gilbert celebrating Titmus, American tennis great Pam Shriver wrote: “Congratulations for OZ but Thank God you don’t celebrate as a coach like that.
“When the coach tried to be the show it’s (vomit emoji).”
American political operator Laura Chapin tweeted: “Hey all – what the Australian coach did isn’t funny or cute. It bigfoots a woman athlete winning a gold medal and centres the attention on him. It’s vulgar and frankly offensive and he should apologise to her. And everyone else.”
But Boxall doesn’t care what the haters say. “Nah I love it,” he told SEN radio about his thoughts on criticism coming from the US.
“That doubt stirs me. It fuels my fire. Without that I don’t get the creative juices flowing. Doubt and having people dislike me is completely fine.
“I just lost it mate. It was five years of (hard work). You’ve punched out this plan, and to see it unfold, there’s nothing bigger. Arnie can’t represent Earth against Mars. This is the biggest for us. To see it take fold – I just completely lost it.”
America reacts to ‘plot twist’
Writing for swimswam.com, American-based reporter Loretta Race said “what many thought wasn’t possible just happened” while Henry Bushnell of Yahoo Sports pointed out the irony in Ledecky being beaten by the swimmer she inspired.
“She just got beat, for the first time at the Olympics, by a woman four years her junior, a woman who had been inspired by Ledecky’s own greatness,” he wrote. “So it goes that Ledecky, in a way, created her conqueror.
“She was left to ponder that unfamiliar feeling of being great but not great enough.”
Mark Ziegler of the San Diego Tribune thought Ledecky was beaten before she even got into the water. “Her eyes gave her away, though, belying a trepidation inconsistent with arguably the most dominant female swimmer in history,” Ziegler wrote.
“She looked nervous, anxious, tense, concerned. Justifiably so, it turned out. Four minutes later, her nearly decade-long reign over distance swimming had been usurped by a 20-year-old from the Australian island of Tasmania.”
Ledecky is used to putting such a huge gap between her and her rivals early in a race, they simply become disheartened and can’t keep up. But on this occasion, when she turned at the 300m mark, Titmus was hot on her heels. With 50m to go, the Aussie had edged ahead.
“I felt pretty smooth and strong going out and looking up at 300 and I was like, ‘Oh, she’s right there’,” Ledecky said afterwards. It was a feeling she hasn’t experienced before.
Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illustrated wrote: “Nine years into her Olympic career, 300 metres into her first final here, Katie Ledecky looked over and saw a plot twist.”
Rosenberg praised Ledecky’s grace in defeat as she paid tribute to Titmus and accepted she did her best, refusing to sulk at her first individual silver. There’s no doubt she remains a champion and it seems absurd to say given she’s only 24, but the American now faces some awkward questions about her future.
“This brings us to that same question for the American public: Now what? Ledecky has been more admired than beloved; she has been almost as dominant as Simone Biles but not nearly as fun to watch,” Rosenberg wrote.
“In London in 2012, Ledecky was the 15-year-old prodigy. In Rio in 2016, she was a rare athletic breed: a 19-year-old GOAT. Now, in Tokyo, she is the star trying to fend off the (relative) kid. It doesn’t change who she is, but it could change how we see her. Titmus makes Ledecky’s Olympics harder but more interesting. It’s for the best, and even Ledecky sees it.”
Meanwhile, Associated Press said: “For the first time in her brilliant Olympic career, Ledecky felt the sting of defeat, dished out by a rival from Down Under who made it clear she was not intimidated by the American star.
“Ledecky’s runner-up finish was another disappointment for the Americans after a dynamic start to the swimming competition.”