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Everything you need to know about Ariarne Titmus ahead of Paris 2024

Ariarne Titmus celebrates winning gold in the Women's 400m Freestyle Final at the World Championships. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
10th June, 2024
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Three years ago in Tokyo, Ariarne Titmus went from being a good swimmer to a swimming great.

In Paris this year, she can complete the transformation to Aussie Olympic icon.

There are only a couple of obstacles in her way. One is America’s greatest ever female swimmer, the other a contender for the hottest young prospect in the history of the sport.

It’s all in a day’s work for Titmus, the 23-year-old from Launceston.

Here is everything you need to know about the woman they call ‘Arnie’.

Who is Ariarne Titmus?

We’re glad you asked. Ariarne Titmus is one of the best swimmers in the world.

She was born in Launceston in the year 2000, mere days before Ian Thorpe, Susie O’Neill and Grant Hackett lit up the pool at the Sydney Olympics.

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She started swimming for her local club at the age of 7, and after a string of successes at the national age championships, Titmus competed at the world junior titles in 2014 in the 200m freestyle, 400m freestyle and 800m freestyle. 

There were few signs of her future success at that meet though, as she failed to make any finals, but what came next changed the course of her career.

Together with her parents Steve and Robyn, Titmus moved from Tasmania to the Gold Coast in 2015 to train under Dean Boxall, who would later become best known for his raucous celebrations after his swimmers – most of all Titmus – won their races.

Australia's Ariarne Titmus

Ariarne Titmus reacts after winning a race. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

‘Arnie’ improved dramatically under Boxall’s tutelage, and by the time the Commonwealth Games came around just three years later, she was a completely different swimmer, dominating the middle and long-distance freestyle events with gold in the 400m, 800m and 4x200m relay, to go with a silver in the 200m.

She made headlines around the globe at the 2019 world championships when she became the first person to ever defeat Katie Ledecky in the 400m freestyle at an international event, setting up an epic showdown between the pair at the Tokyo Olympics – where the Covid-enforced 12-month delay surely helped Titmus slash even more seconds from her personal bests. 

How many Olympic gold medals has Ariarne Titmus won?

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Ariarne Titmus has won two Olympic gold medals (so far), and while that feat in itself was impressive, it was the manner of her victories that made the achievement so remarkable.

In Tokyo she claimed gold in the 400m freestyle by once again edging out Ledecky, powering home in the last 50m to overtake the US legend and touch first in a time of 3:56.69, the second-fastest time ever recorded at that stage.

Just two days later Titmus repeated the feat in the 200m freestyle, once again overpowering Ledecky after the final turn to claim gold.

The Aussie, still just 20 at the time, narrowly missed out on a historic triple, claiming a silver medal in the 800m freestyle – behind Ledecky, of course – before wrapping up her brilliant meet with bronze in the 4x200m freestyle relay. 

How many medals has Ariarne Titmus won at major swim meets?

All up, Titmus has won 21 medals across the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and World Swimming Championships, including 14 golds.

See the full breakdown below:

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Olympic Games: 2 x gold medals (200m freestyle in 2021, 400m freestyle in 2021), 1 x silver medal (800m freestyle in 2021), 1 x bronze medal (4x200m freestyle relay in 2021)

Commonwealth Games: 7 x gold medals (400m freestyle in 2018 and 2022, 800m freestyle in 2018 and 2022, 4x200m freestyle relay in 2018 and 2022, 200m freestyle in 2022), 1 x silver medal (200m freestyle in 2018)

World Swimming Championships: 4 x gold medals (400m freestyle in 2019 and 2023, 4x200m freestyle relay in 2019 and 2023), 2 x silver medals (200m freestyle in 2019 and 2023), 3 x bronze medals (800m freestyle in 2019 and 2023, 4x200m freestyle relay in 2017)

How many times has Ariarne Titmus broken a world record?

Titmus has broken a long course swimming world record on six occasions – three times on her own and three times as part of Australia’s all-conquering 4x200m freestyle relay team.

Her first individual world record was a biggie – the 400m freestyle record that Ledecky held for eight years until Titmus recorded a time of 3:56.40 at the 2022 Australian Championships in Adelaide. 

After losing the record to Canadian teen sensation Summer McIntosh – more on her a bit later – Titmus regained it after winning the so-called ‘Race of the Century’ at the 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka in a time of 3:55.38 – more than a full second quicker than she’d swum to claim gold in Tokyo.

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The Aussie then sent an ominous warning to her rivals ahead of the Paris Games by breaking the 200m freestyle world record at the Olympic trials in June 2024, just ahead of the previous record-holder Mollie O’Callaghan, who also happens to be Titmus’ training partner. Titmus’ time of 1:52.34 smashed the old record by more than half a second.

Ariarne Titmus reacts to claiming the gold medal.

Ariarne Titmus reacts to claiming a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Is Ariarne Titmus better than Katie Ledecky?

That all depends on how you define ‘better’, of course.

Based purely on Olympic and world championship medals it’s a no-contest, with 19-time world champion Ledecky the proud owner of seven Olympic gold medals, compared to Titmus’ tally of two Olympic golds and four world titles.

But in head-to-head contests, Titmus holds the edge over the American veteran. It was 2-1 to the Aussie in Tokyo, with Titmus winning the 200m freestyle and 400m freestyle while Ledecky won out in the 800m freestyle.

Honours were even two years earlier at the 2019 world championships, when Titmus won the 400m freestyle final but could only claim bronze in the 800m, which Ledecky won. These results were repeated four years later in Fukuoka.

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So taking in all their head-to-head swims in finals at Olympic Games and world championships, Titmus currently leads 4-3. This of course doesn’t take into account that Titmus was still making her formative strides in international swimming when Ledecky blitzed the field at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Despite their intense rivalry, Titmus has nothing but praise for Ledecky, crediting the American for elevating women’s swimming to a new level.

“I wouldn’t be here without her,” Titmus said of Ledecky after winning the 400m freestyle at the  2023 world championships. “She’s set this amazing standard for middle-distance freestyle for girls. If I didn’t have someone like her to chase, I definitely wouldn’t be swimming the way I am.”

Is Ariarne Titmus better than Summer McIntosh?

Titmus vs McIntosh is, in some ways, the new and improved version of Ledecky vs Titmus.

McIntosh, from Canada, is still just 17 but has already won four world titles, broken a world record, and narrowly missed the podium at the Olympics – the latter when she was a scarcely-believable 14 years old.

By comparison, when Titmus was 14 she didn’t make the final in any of the three individual events she entered at the World Junior Championships.

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Once again Titmus holds the edge in head-to-head contests at major international meets, but McIntosh holds somewhat of a trump card, in that she doesn’t just compete in freestyle – all of her world championship gold medals have come in other events, namely butterfly and individual medley.

Their inevitable head-to-head clash in the 200m freestyle and 400m freestyle in Paris, which should also involve Ledecky, could go down as one of the greatest Olympic swimming races of all time. 

Ariarne Titmus of Team Australia competes

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Is Ariarne Titmus Australia’s greatest swimmer?

Based purely on medals, the answer is no – not by a long shot. In the Olympic tally she’s still well behind her Dolphins teammate Emma McKeon, who has won five golds, two silvers and four bronzes.

But Titmus is a genuine chance of reaching six gold medals by the time the swimming is finished at the Paris Olympics. Find out how by reading below.

Will Ariarne Titmus be at the 2024 Olympics?

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Yes, Ariarne Titmus will compete for Australia at the 2024 Olympics, barring a catastrophe between now and late July.

She booked her ticket to Paris at the Olympic trials in Brisbane, winning the 400m freestyle in a time that was just 0.06 seconds slower than her world record swim from 2023, before obliterating the 200m freestyle world record a couple of days later.

She also qualified for the 800m freestyle, an event that she claimed silver for in Tokyo, while she’s certain to feature in Australia’s 4x200m freestyle relay team.

If she can return from Paris with a couple more gold medals, then she will most certainly enter the conversation around Australia’s greatest swimmer of all time.

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