Titmus stuns Ledecky to claim gold with an all-time great performance

Ariarne Titmus has produced one of the greatest races in Australian swimming history to stun American great Katie Ledecky and win the 400m freestyle title at the FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea.

Glittering prize: Australian gold medallist Ariane Titmus, centre, stands with silver medallist United States’ Katie Ledecky and her compatriot and bronze medallist Leah Smith after the 400m freestyle final.Credit:AP

The 18-year-old Australian had edged closer to the Olympic champion and world record holder over the past 12 months but few believed she was ready to deliver a blow like this so soon. Ledecky, such a powerhouse in the sport, had not lost the race since 2013 and in most cases, had simply been racing the clock.

Not this time. Titmus, the Tasmanian who trains in Brisbane under coach Dean Boxall, went out exceedingly hard and ensured Ledecky knew she was in a contest. But the American tried to break her heart in the third 100m, edging a body length clear and taking that lead into the final 50m.

But instead of folding, Titmus exploded. In scenes never before witnessed in one of Ledecky's races, she was the one that weakened with the finish nearing and Titmus scorched past her for a scintillating and famous victory in 3:58.45 to a 3:59.97 for Ledecky.

"I feel pretty normal. It was just a swimming race," Titmus said. "Dean said to me there were three outcomes; you could swim great, you could swim good, you could swim bad but you will still wake up tomorrow.

Unforgettable upset: Australia’s Ariane Titmus touches in ahead of United States’ Katie Ledecky.Credit:AP

"There was no pressure for me. It seemed like there was. I just wanted to fight as hard as I could. That last 50m, I gave it everything. I'm pretty happy."

Ledecky is still 22 and will no doubt hit back hard at the Tokyo Games. But now she has a real rival, a genuine contender, for a crown that many thought she simply had to turn up to claim once more.

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