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Titmus hands legend Ledecky first-ever Olympic defeat to claim gold


Ariarne Titmus says it’s surreal, slaying an Olympic giant to win a famous gold medal

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The 20-year-old is struggling to comprehend her 400m freestyle victory which instantly entered Australian sporting folklore.

Titmus delivered Australia’s second gold medal of the Tokyo Games on Monday, with Emma McKeon (100m butterfly) and the nation’s men’s 4x100m freestyle relay winning bronze.

The swim team has Australia’s entire medal collection – two gold, a silver and two bronze.

And Titmus’s gold is destined to live most large after she hunted down  Katie Ledecky in a titantic duel, handing the American megastar her first-ever defeat in an Olympic individual race.

“It’s surreal. It’s probably the biggest thing you can pull off in your sporting career,” she said.

Titmus was within a whisker – 0.23 seconds – of Ledecky’s world record.

The Australian snapped at Ledecky’s heels for the initial 250 metres in what appeared a cunning plan, but was really mid-race concern.

“Honestly, at the 200 I was a little bit worried,” Titmus said.”I knew she would be prepared so I guess I had to trust myself.

“I tried to stay as composed as I could and use my speed.”

Titmus ominously dialled up her pace: with 100m to go, she was within 0.16 seconds, and closing.

The Australian then overwhelmed Ledecky, a renowned strong finisher who has five Olympic golds and 15 world championships in a storied career.

“To pull it off against someone who has an amazing second half of her race, I’m really proud of that,” Titmus said.

“I thanked her at the end. I wouldn’t be here without her.

“She has set this amazing standard and if I didn’t have someone like her to chase, I wouldn’t be swimming that way.”

Titmus’ triumph followed McKeon adding another medal to her collection.

After winning gold with Australia’s 4x100m freestyle relay on Sunday, McKeon’s 100m ‘fly bronze is the sixth medal of her Olympic career – two of each colour.

The 27-year-old, a medal prospect in five more events, could depart Tokyo as Australia’s most successful Olympian.

Swim legend Ian Thorpe has that honour with nine medals while Thorpe, Alicia Coutts and Shane Gould hold the Australian record for most medals at a single Olympics, five.

McKeon produced a personal best in the ‘fly final, after finishing sixth in the event at the 2016 Rio Games.

“To do a PB in an Olympic final, I’m pretty happy,” McKeon said.

“Really awesome … I didn’t really put a limit on it, I was just focusing on my process.”

And the men’s freestyle relayers picked up a bronze on the back of a sizzling last leg by Kyle Chalmers.

The defending 100m Olympic champion hoisted Australia from fifth to the podium with a stunning split in 46.44 seconds – the fastest split of anyone in the entire race.

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