Ariarne Titmus surges ahead of Katie Ledecky to win women’s 400m freestyle Olympic title

Australia’s Ariarne Titmus clocks Oceania record to claim 400m freestyle crown from Katie Ledecky

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Australia’s Ariarne Titmus chased down defending champion Katie Ledecky to win 400m freestyle gold.

In one of the most anticipated races of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, Titmus won the gold medal in 3:56.69, the second-fastest time in history.

American Ledecky, the defending Olympic champion and world-record holder, finished runner-up in 3:57.36.

"I fought tooth and nail,” Ledecky said. “She definitely swam a really smart race. She was really controlled up front.

"I felt pretty smooth and strong going out and flipped at the 300 and it was like, ‘Oh, she’s right there.’”

For the first time in her Olympic career, Ledecky lost in an individual final. And Titmus, nicknamed "The Terminator", is overjoyed at beating perhaps the greatest women's freestyle swimmer in history.

“It’s surreal,” Titmus said. “Crazy when you make this massive plan for something. It’s probably the biggest thing you could pull off in your sporting career, so I’m over the moon.”

The bronze went to LI Bingjie of People's Republic of China in 4:01.08.

Ledecky lost an individual Olympic final for the first time after winning the 800 free at the 2012 London Games, then capturing three more golds in the 200, 400 and 800 free at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

"I knew it was going to be a battle to the end,” Ledecky said. “I didn’t feel like I died. She just had that faster 50 or 75. Can’t get much better than that.”

At the end of the race, the pair climbed out of the pool together, giving each other a hug.

“I just thanked her,” Titmus said. “I wouldn’t be here without her. She’s set this standard for middle-distance freestyle.

"If I didn’t have someone like her to chase I definitely wouldn’t be swimming the way I am.”

Ledecky and Titmus go head to head again in the 200m freestyle event.

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