Aussie teen looking to unseat US swim queen
SWIMMING: Rookie Ariarne Titmus has 'swum' from her Launceston home town to her Brisbane base to prepare for swimming's most daunting race against untouchable American distance queen Katie Ledecky.
Ending the 17-win streak of champion racehorse Winx would be easier than beating Ledecky, who owns every distance freestyle world record and five Olympic gold medals.
But being awe-struck diving in against her idol is not in the Titmus race plan for heat four of the 400m freestyle at the World Swimming Championships in Budapest on Sunday.
A minor medal would be a huge result for the first Tasmanian to win a national title in 26 years and a 16-year-old who has taken her stroke and motor to new levels under coach Dean Boxall at the champion St Peters Western Club in Brisbane.
When golden girl Susie O'Neill questioned swimming's new wave at the 2012 Olympics for not having the work ethic for gruelling distance events, she hoped she'd see a swimmer like Titmus coming over the horizon.
"I just like the satisfaction of being a distance swimmer because you have to be the toughest, first in and last out at training,” Titmus said.
"You can't race the best in Katie and not want to be the best yourself.
"Dean has taught me to get the blood running with good nerves and make sure you don't fall asleep in a longer race and drop off your tempo.”
"Arnie” has easily swum the 2200km haul from Launceston to Brisbane in training laps over the past 16 months.
Her winning 400m time (four minutes, 4.82 sec) for the Australian title in Brisbane earlier this year was a five-second personal best that dipped under Tracey Wickham's legendary world record standard of 1978 and she backed it up with a fast gold at the recent French Open in Paris.
Renowned distance star Wickham famously sang If You Leave Me Now by the American group Chicago when churning through laps to her 800m freestyle world record at the 1978 Commonwealth Games.
Titmus has her own novel mind game in training.
"There are stats I have to remember for school, so I've revised for exams at times so all those laps are never boring,” Titmus said.
"I kind of listen to the water and feel the flow as well.”
The crowd noise of an amped-up world titles is unlikely to be so serene in Budapest but that tough racing mindset is what she wants to groove because she'd dearly love to swim at a home Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in April.