Olympics-Aussie ‘Terminator’ takes gold as pool duel with Ledecky surpasses the hype
NEWS CONFERENCES WITH MEDALLISTS IN TUESDAY’S TOKYO 2020 OLYMPIC RACES INCLUDING AUSTRALIA’S ARIARNE TITMUS AND USA’S KATIE LEDECKY IN WOMEN’S 400 FREESTYLE, BRITAIN’S ADAM PEATY IN MEN’S 100M BREASTSTROKE AND CANADA’S MAGGIE MACNEIL
Ariarne Titmus of Australia poses with the gold medal REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
STORY: The great pool rivalry between Australia and the U.S. passed to a new generation on Monday (July 26) when a 20-year-old known as “Terminator” hunted down the U.S. dominator of women’s distance swimming in a dramatic 400m freestyle final in Tokyo.
Australian Ariarne Titmus clawed back Stanford graduate Katie Ledecky’s early lead to win gold, delaying the American’s quest for the three more gold medals that would make her the most successful female Olympic swimmer of all time.
“I knew that she (Ledecky) would be in great form coming into this. You know, credit to her she put up a great fight and it was a quick race,” said Titmus, who praised her rival for raising the bar in the sport.
But while Titmus lit up the pool with her stunning victory, when it comes to celebrations it was her wide-eyed, hip-thrusting coach Dean Boxall who deserved an Olympic gold. As Titmus reached for the wall to dethrone her American rival, Boxall burst into a frenzy of exuberant celebrations, punching the air and darting around the spectator gantry.
Titmus had nothing but praise for her coach, whose antics played out on television globally and went viral on social media.
“I think for him it was a very exciting moment as well and a classic Dean reaction,” said Titmus.
“The thing that made me quite emotional was actually seeing him watch my medal ceremony. He was crying and I was trying to contain the emotions. It was just good to see how much it means to him too,” she added.
The USA’s five-times Olympic gold medallist took her defeat with grace, telling reporters she was proud of her achievement in Tokyo.
“Of course, you want to hear your national anthem, but again I am proud of how I swam, proud of how I got to that point. And, you know, it’s not an easy journey, it’s never an easy journey to the podium. It is not something that I take for granted being up there and again it was just a tremendous race, it was a thrill to be a part of,” said Ledecky.
British swimmer Adam Peaty roared with pride and relief as the fastest breaststroker in history became the first British swimmer to defend an Olympic title with a dominant 100m win in the Tokyo pool.
The gold was also his country’s first of the 2020 Games, just as he provided the first at Rio de Janeiro five years previously.
“This Olympics was very different. It was almost like we were under siege going into this second year,” said Peaty referring to a year overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am a crowd swimmer, I love the crowd. I love the arena, I was born for the arena. And then we got to 50 percent capacity and I was like ‘yes! At least we’ve got something, we’ve got people in’, and then no, the final two weeks they took them away again. So, that’s COVID, that’s been the world in the last 18 months.”
Canadian Maggie MacNeil stormed to victory in a close women’s 100m butterfly. China’s Zhang Yufei lead at the halfway mark with MacNeil trailing in seventh but the Canadian produced a brilliant turn to power away from her rivals and pip Zhang by five one-hundredths of a second.
Australia’s Emma McKeon was not far behind, taking bronze just 0.13 behind the winning time.
Team USA got their victory in the 4x100m men’s relay, beating Italy by more than a second with Australia taking the bronze.
The high-stakes swimming finals, staged in the morning in Tokyo to reach prime time American television viewers, were held in a nearly empty aquatic center with spectators banned because of COVID-19 restrictions.