One of swimming’s greatest streaks is over after Australia’s Ariarne Titmus pulled off a stunning upset over American great Katie Ledecky to claim 400m freestyle gold at the world titles in South Korea.
Titmus, 18, showed poise beyond her years to power past five-time Olympic champion Ledecky on the final lap on Sunday’s opening night of the eight-day titles at Gwangju and chalk up the biggest win of her budding career.
She clocked three minutes, 58.76 seconds to beat Ledecky by 1.21 seconds, denying the American a fourth straight 400m world title.
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Dubbed the Terminator, “Arnie” Titmus also shot down Ledecky’s incredible unbeaten record in the pool.
Remarkably Ledecky – a 14-time world champion – had not been beaten over 400m, 800m or 1500m freestyle at a major international meet since the 2012 London Olympics.
“I was 11 when London was on. It’s crazy to think she has been dominating distance freestyle since then,” Titmus said.
“Now hopefully she is excited that she now has a battle with me.
“But Katie is a true champion. To do something like this I suppose every girl who does middle distance freestyle dreams of doing.
“But next year is the Olympics and I am sure she will be back next year in her best form.”
Titmus led through the first 200m and at one stage was under world-record pace before Ledecky made her move.
The American hit the front with 250m left and looked set to power home before Titmus put on the afterburners in a stunning final lap finish.
“I knew I had to take it out hard to be with her. Her third 100m is still a lot better than mine but suddenly I felt something,” Titmus said of her final surge.
“I just thought I have to fight just to stay with her, she pulled away a little bit.
“I never thought I would be in a situation where I would mow her down.”
Ledecky finished second in 3:59.97 – well off her world record of 3:56.46 set at the Rio Olympics.
American Leah Smith took bronze in 4:01.29.
© AAP 2019