Australian Championships, Day 1 Finals: Ariarne Titmus Back In The Fast Lane in The Topsy Turvey World Of Morning Finals

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SWING AND A HIT: Ariarne Titmus allayed any self doubts with her third National title in the 200m freestyle. Photo Courtesy (Swimming Australia).

Olympic hopeful Ariarne Titmus woke up this morning and went for a stroll in the park but when the “gun went off” at 10.10am for her first ever morning final in the women’s 200m freestyle at the Australian Championships on the Gold Coast it was anything but.

Her life and the lives of swimmers here and around the world have been turned upside down.

They have been born and bred on morning heats, a nap in the afternoon and wake up all refreshed to swim finals at night.

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MAKING A SPLASH: Ariarne Titmus nailed her racing return on the Gold Coast. to Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia)

But Tokyo will be “back the front” just like it was in Beijing and the world’s best swimmers have to become morning people whether they like it or not.

There was extra pressure on Titmus, who had only been in heavy training over the last month after succumbing to a shoulder injury in the middle of last December’s Queensland State Championships.

But she really had nothing to worry about. She looked sharp in the evening heats at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre last night and after rising this morning at 6am to get herself race ready it took just 1 minute 55.43 seconds to allay any concerns about her shoulder and the morning final and where she was at.

Despite the withdrawal of fastest qualifier Emma McKeon (Griffith University) – happy with her heat swim last night (1:55.79) and to concentrate on the rest of her busy program – that’s how long it took Titmus to win her third Australian title over the distance.

Titmus knew she had to be race ready to win and she pulled out everything she had to hold off Rio Olympians Madi Wilson (Marion, SA) 1:56.26, Brianna Throssell (UWA West Coast) 1:57.29 and Leah Neale (Chandler) 1:57.67.

McKeon, Titmus and Wilson all under the Olympic qualifier of 1:56.82.

“It’s a good place to start with that time; it is good to get it out of the way… I was very nervous .yesterday and I felt like I had a lot of expectation on me; people were even wondering, even myself, wondering where I would be.

“I have been training quite solidly for a month now; post everything with my shoulder and (training) is one thing but to come here to put a race together; you can be training well but you don’t know how well you are going until you race.

“Because I haven’t had much racing practice; something I was getting a bit worried about but (I think) it turned out pretty good.”

And on the early rise?

“I didn’t want to be up at 7.30am and feel sluggish here, so I went for a walk…I was racing at 10 past 10am so I was up at 6 o’clock to try and get everything moving.

“It is definitely good practice; but if (this meet) wasn’t back the front I would not have had a beeline at all going into the Olympics and I’m happy that I can practice strategies around swimming fast in the mornings.”

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The corresponding 200m men’s race was all over when Olympic 100m champion Kyle Chalmers (Marion, SA) powered off the final turn and charged down the last lap to take the win and his third straight title in 1:47.03.

He swamped early leader Alexander Graham (Bond) trying desperately to hang on with his former team mate and his fellow Commonwealth Games gold medal relay partner Elijah Winnington (St Peters Western) who were second and third respectively in 1:47.47 and 1:47.55.

Rackley’s four-time World Junior medallist and distance specialist Thomas Neill was a close up fourth in a pb of 1:47.61 – encouraging for his 400, 800 and 1500m.

And Chalmers take on the early wake up call?

“If the final at the Olympics is going to be in the morning then you have to get yourself up,” said Chalmers.

“I’m a pretty relaxed sort of a person so for me I wake up when I wake up; I had a bit of breakfast like normal and did my warm up like I normally would – nothing changes whether its finals in the morning or finals at night.

“Everyone wants to be in a final and that’s where the medals are won; nothing kind of crosses my mind negatively.”

And where is he at after his shoulder surgery in December?

“I’ve had very little racing since the operation ….it’s only my second competition back and only my second 200m freestyle,” said Chalmers.

“For me it’s all about building the confidence back up and belief in my body…to tick another heat and final off it’s fantastic.

“The 200m is an event I’ve always had to work harder for; in training I train like a 200m freestyler but in the back of my mind I just want to do the 100m.

“But I know that we’ve got such a good shot at that 4x200m freestyle relay; it’s something I want to be a part of; so many of my great mates swim the 200m freestyle with me.

“It makes marshalling fun; I get so excited to see someone like Zac Incerti swim so well last night…it motivates me and makes me happy…it’s good to race alongside those boys again today.

“I’ve got a fair way to go shave wise and taper wise; swimming a time like that.. ‘in season’ is really good for me and when I need to I’ll be that little bit faster again…”


Meanwhile in other events:

Local Southport Olympic product Chelsea Hodges, who started swimming at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre when she was seven years of age under her long time coach Sean Eels, broke through to win her first National open title at her home pool, in a tough-it-out final 25 metres to take the 100m breaststroke.

Just half a second separated the first four with Hodges taking the gold in 1:07.14 (after her pb of 1:06.90 in last night’s heat) to hold off defending champion Abbey Harkin (St Peters Western) by a whisker 1:07.27 with Jessica Hansen (Cruiz, ACT) 1:07.41 third and Jenna Strauch (Bond) 1:07.70 fourth.



There was no holding back Zac Stubblety-Cook (Chandler, QLD) in the men’s 100m breaststroke, dipping under the minute to win his first National title in 59.87.


The women’s 50m backstroke saw Australian All-Comers record holder Kaylee McKeown take the win in 27.45 (just outside her own mark of (27.38) ) after her pb to finish fifth in the 200m freestyle in 1:57.76. She held off Australian record holder Emily Seebohm (Griffith University, QLD) 27.94 and Madi Wilson (Marion, SA) 28.13.


And as hard as he tried backstroking “boss” Mitch Larkin couldn’t quite nab the National mark owned by Ben Treffers at 24.54 since 2014 with his 24.75, a touch slower than his heat swim last night of 24.67.


The women’s 400IM saw Jenna Forrester (St Peters Western, QLD) win a gripping final with Commonwealth Games representative Meg Bailey (Hunter) with just 0.13 separating the pair after eight gruelling laps – Forrester winning in 4:39.46 (Aust 17 years record) and Bailey 4:39.59.


The men’s 400IM saw Nunawading’s Brendon Smith go ever so close to the Olympic qualifier, just a second outside in 4:15.48 to take his first National title, saying his race place was “to go out hard and try and hang on…..but I’m so happy with win a National title is so good….I’m stoked.” The Olympic Trials awaits this champion young Half Moon Bay lifesaver and that’s when he needs the Olympic Qualifier ..he is well and truly on his way…..


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