Record-Breakers Ariarne Titmus and Mollie O’Callaghan Pointing Australia Toward Olympic Domination

ariarne titmus
Ariarne Titmus following her latest world record -- Photo Courtesy Wade Brennan (Wade's Photos)

Record-Breakers Ariarne Titmus and Mollie O’Callaghan Pointing Australia Toward Olympic Domination

For 14 years, the world record in the women’s 200 freestyle remained just beyond the reach of the world’s best in the event. Federica Pellegrini swam the time of 1:52.98 at the 2009 World Championships, where she was buoyed by both the home crowd in Rome plus the full-polyurethane suits that were banned much later.

Allison Schmitt took a shot at the record during her run to Olympic gold in 2012, and Katie Ledecky and Sarah Sjostrom did the same four years later. Ariarne Titmus came within hundredths of the mark in 2021 at the same meet where she knocked off Ledecky’s global standard in the 400 free.

But it was not until last July when the record finally went down. Titmus had led the World Championships final for the entire length of the race, stretching the margin to three-quarters of a second at the last turn. The record was within reach, but Titmus had been in similar spots before only to finish just short. The closing 15 meters, however, brought another surprise as Titmus’ 19-year-old training partner Mollie O’Callaghan put on a surge to steal away gold and also the long-standing record.

Titmus clocked 1:53.01 in that race, marginally quicker than her previous best time but three hundredths behind Pellegrini’s best. O’Callaghan? She had touched in 1:52.85 to establish a new record. Not bad for a swimmer better known for her 100-meter abilities prior to that final.

Eleven months later, both swimmers have significantly elevated themselves. The performances they notched at the ongoing Australian Olympic Trials are best described as ridiculous: the typically-fast-finishing O’Callaghan actually led Titmus at the first turn and never fell more than two tenths behind the defending Olympic champion at any intermediate split. When they flipped at the final turn, Titmus in 1:53.95 and O’Callaghan at 1:24.11, both were quicker than they were in last year’s Worlds final, O’Callaghan by a whopping six tenths.

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Mollie O’Callaghan — Photo Courtesy Wade Brennan Photography

In the end, O’Callaghan’s closing split of 28.37 was a bit shy of the remarkable 28.01 she uncorked in Fukuoka, but she was still quick enough to touch in 1:52.48, substantially faster than her previous world record. Titmus, meanwhile, swam just a tick quicker than her 2023 Worlds swim for the first 150 meters before coming home in 28.28 (compared to a 29.01 last year), and she actually pulled away from O’Callaghan to establish the new world mark of 1:52.23.

Let those times sink in: 1:52.23 and 1:52.48. Remember, we are a year removed from no one breaking 1:53 since the supersuit era, and now these two Aussies are closer to going 1:51s. Both have been more than a second quicker than the next-fastest active swimmer, Summer McIntosh (1:53.65), and even with McIntosh and Siobhan Haughey swimming well, Titmus and O’Callaghan are now heavily favored to finish 1-2 in this event in Paris, with the order still to be determined.

Moreover, Titmus and O’Callaghan look like the standard-bearers for an Australian team that could beat the United States in the gold-medal count in Paris, with Kaylee McKeown also poised for an enormous performance. Titmus nearly broke her own world record in the 400 free while swimming several seconds faster than McIntosh or Ledecky have this year.

O’Callaghan showed disappointment upon losing her world record in the 200 free, but she could be closing down on the world record in the 100 free, with Sarah Sjostrom’s mark of 51.71 having lasted since 2017. Fellow Aussie Emma McKeon is the only other swimmer to break 52, and O’Callaghan joining that exclusive club this week looks probable.

And the relays: the Americans are the slight favorites in the women’s medley relay, but both freestyle relays look like absolute runaways at this point. Behind Titmus and O’Callaghan in Wednesday’s final, Lani Pallister and Brianna Throssell both swam 1:55s while Shayna Jack and Jamie Perkins tied for fifth at 1:56.22.

Could the United States women match those third-through-sixth-place times at their Olympic Trials next week in Indianapolis? Maybe, if every top 200 freestyler in the country is on their game and has improved since last year. But how do you deal with two swimmers going 1:52? Ledecky is still capable of throwing down a 1:53 relay split, but no other American is.

We’ll have more to say about the 100 free and 400 free relay after that event takes place in Brisbane, but it’s been more than a decade since a full-strength Aussie team has lost this race.

Now, after Australia’s women captured eight gold medals and thoroughly dominated the United States in the last head-to-head matchup between the two countries, the trend is toward more of the same in Paris, with the world-record-smashing exploits of Titmus and O’Callaghan paving the way.

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Kanga1
Kanga1
18 days ago

Obviously as an Aussie Aussie I hope the domination continues. Again at this stage 8 Golds could be on the cards .

Women’s:

Good chance;

100m Freestyle
200m Freestyle
400m Freestyle
4×100m Freestyle Relay
4×200m Freestyle Relay
100m Backstroke
200m Backstroke
200m IM

Further hopes in the
4×100m Medley Relay (possible)
800m Freestyle (unlikely)
100m Butterfly (unlikely)

Mens:

BLEAK!

100m Freestyle (unlikely)
400m Freestyle (possible)
800m Freestyle (potentially)
100m Butterfly (maybe)
200m Breastroke (hopefully)
4×100m Freestyle Relay (lottery)

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