Australian Champs, Day Three Finals: Ariarne Titmus Rockets to Top of World in 400 Freestyle; Men’s Distance Duel a Highlight


Australian Champs, Day Three Finals: Ariarne Titmus Rockets to Top of World in 400 Freestyle; Men’s Distance Duel a Highlight

By Nicole Jeffery

After the most testing year of her international career, Olympic champion Ariarne Titmus was back on top of the world today after clocking the fastest 400m freestyle of the year at the Australian Open Championships on the Gold Coast.

Titmus, 23, had never cracked the four-minute barrier in work before tonight, when she stopped the clock in 3:59.13 to take the top ranking from New Zealand’s Erika Fairweather (3:59.44 to win the world title in Doha in February).

The performance quelled any lingering concerns that the abdominal surgery she underwent in September last year would leave her short of time to return to her absolute best in time for the Paris Olympics. Doctors had discovered two benign tumours on her right ovary during a routine MRI scan to examine a minor hip injury.

“I feel like it’s been a bit of a long time coming (her competition form),’’ Titmus said, confirming that this performance had given her the confidence boost she needed.

“I feel like I used to be able to swim a lot better in work, maybe I’m feeling my age, but that’s really good, I’m really happy with that. I’ve got a lot of confidence from the work I’ve done in training but it’s another thing putting it together when you race.”

Titmus was challenged by world short-course champion Lani Pallister over the first 200m, but kept control of the race through her superior turns and kicked away overran extra gethe second half of the race. However, Pallister (Griffith University, QLD) held on to set a personal best time of 4:01.75, that also lifts her into the top five in the world.

But the race of the night came in the men’s 800m freestyle final, where the last two world championships silver medallists Elijah Winnington and Sam Short eyeballed each other for 16 laps before Winnington found an extra gear in the final 100m to win in 7:43.08. Short was less than a second behind in 7:43.98.

Winnington’s resurgence under coach Dean Boxall continues apace after his loss of confidence last year. He said he has learned “to back myself and that I deserve to be here”.

But it was only in the last 100m that he felt he might have Short’s measure tonight.

“From about 500 to 600 Sam really put on a move, and then from 600 to 700 Sam put on another move and I was hurting so bad. But I came off the 700m wall and I just worked my turn a little bit more and I saw I gained a bit on him. So I knew that he had lost some momentum, and I knew that I could come home in the last 50.”

Meanwhile, former world champion Cameron McEvoy turned around a sluggish qualifying swim to regain the national 50m freestyle title in 21.93, fending off the trademark finishing surge from the 2016 Olympic 100m champion Kyle Chalmers.

A delighted Chalmers achieved one of his long-standing goals by cracking 22 seconds for the first time, registering a new personal best of 21.98 which indicates that he is settling nicely into his new training squad under coach Ash Delaney at the St Andrews club on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

Defending national champion Thomas Nowakowski (USC Spartans, QLD) took the third place on the podium in 22.08.

Chalmers’ former training partner at the Marion Club in Adelaide, Matt Temple, retained his domestic dominance in the 100m butterfly, with another slick time of 50.80, winning by more than half a second from Shaun Champion in 51.28 (Abbotsleigh, NSW), with Ben Armbruster (Bond, QLD) third in 51.86.

Triple Olympic champion Kaylee McKeown underlined her versatility by winning the 50m backstroke title 24 hours after breaking the national 400m individual medley record.

Backstroke diva McKeown clocked 27.07 to deny Mollie O’Callaghan (27.16) and take back the Australian title in this event.

Melbourne teenager Will Petric claimed his first national senior title in the 200m individual medley, holding off New Zealand’s world 400m individual medley champion Lewis Clareburt down the stretch.

Former breaststroker Petric (Nunawading, VIC) took advantage of his strongest stroke to establish a winning lead at the final turn and stopped the clock in a personal best of 1:58.43. Clareburt came through for second in 1:58.73.

World silver medallist Jenna Strauch completed the women’s breaststroke treble with an impressive victory over her favoured 200m distance, clocking 2:23.33 to confirm her return from the knee injury that ruled her out of last year’s world championships.

Her Miami clubmate Matilda Smith, 19, claimed second in 2:24.89, delivering the quinella to their coach Richard Scarce.

Visitors claimed two victories as Russian-born Mark Nikolaev, who is seeking Australian citizenship, snatched the 100m backstroke crown (54.61) from South Korean Lee Juho (54.64), and Japan’s Rikako Ikee won the women’s 50m butterfly from Emma McKeon (25.70).

World Para Champion Alexa Leary (S9) set the first world record of the championships,  clocking 59.64 in her specialist 100m freestyle.

Fellow world champion Tim Hodge (SM9) claimed his third gold medal of the week in the Men’s Multi Class 200m individual medley, winning in 2:12.74. Fellow Paralympic medallist Ruby Storm (SM14) has been similarly dominant in the women’s events and won her 200m IM final in 2:35.61.




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