Titmus takes round one of battle with Ledecky

Sports | AGENCIES 27 Jul 2021

Australia's Ariarne Titmus landed the first blow in her Olympic duel with US great Katie Ledecky yesterday, snatching the 400 meters freestyle gold.

She finished strongly ahead of defending champion Ledecky, touching in three minutes 56.69 seconds - the second-fastest time in history. Ledecky, who set the world record in Rio five years ago, hit the wall in 3:57.36, with China's Li Bingjie a distant third in 4:01.08.

Titmus, 20, was elated but composed after a most anticipated encounter, saying: "I'm over the moon."

Ledecky, 24, offered no excuses after losing an individual Olympic final for the first time in her career. "I didn't feel like I died or fell off," the American said. "She just had a faster last 50m or 75m and got her hand on the wall first."

Titmus' mission in Tokyo is to dethrone Ledecky in three individual events - 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle - and potentially the 4x200m relay.

But Ledecky, also gunning for the 1,500m freestyle, is well able to avenge the loss and add to her Olympic medal tally of five gold and two silver.

Titmus has been snapping at the American's heels since ousting her as world champion in 2019, and Ledecky praised her rival. "She definitely swam a really smart race."

Titmus thanked Ledecky after the race for inspiring her.

"I wouldn't be here without her," she said. "She's set this amazing standard in middle-distance freestyle, and if I didn't have someone like her to chase I definitely wouldn't be swimming the way I am."

In other events, Team USA, led by Caeleb Dressel, won the 4x100m men's relay, beating Italy by more than a second while Australia were third.

Canadian Maggie MacNeil stormed to victory in the women's 100m butterfly.

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