TOKYO – The Terminator defeated Katie Ledecky at the Tokyo Olympics.
Australian Ariarne Titmus, called Terminator by some in her country, chased Ledecky to win one of the most anticipated races of the Summer Games, taking gold with the second fastest time in history Monday.
Titmus, who was trailing almost his entire body halfway through the eight-lap race, activated speed touch in 3 minutes, 56.69 seconds.
Ledecky was the reigning Olympic champion and world record holder. She settled for the silver this time around in 3: 57.36, the fourth fastest time on record.
“I fought tooth and nail,” Ledecky said. “She definitely swam a very smart race. She was really controlled up front. I felt pretty soft and strong coming out and I flipped 300 and it was like, ‘Oh, she’s right there.’ “
And then she left.
For the first time in her stellar Olympic career, Ledecky felt the sting of defeat, served by a rival from Down Under who made it clear she was not intimidated by the American star.
“It’s surreal,” Titmus said. “Crazy when you make that massive plan for something. This is probably the most important thing you can achieve in your athletic career, so I’m in heaven. “
No one else was even close. Bronze went to China’s Li Bingjie in 4: 01.08.
Ledecky’s second place was another disappointment for the Americans after a dynamic start to the swimming competition.
The powerful team won six of 12 medals on Sunday, but were ruled out of medals in the first two finals on Monday. Torri Huske and Michael Andrew narrowly missed fourth, and then it was Ledecky who settled for second on the podium – a very unknown spot for perhaps the greatest freestyle swimmer in history.
Ledecky lost an individual Olympic final for the first time after winning the 800 freestyle at the London Games in 2012 and then three more golds in the 200, 400 and 800 freestyle in Rio de Janeiro five years ago.
“I knew it would be a battle to the end,” Ledecky said. “I didn’t feel like I was dead. She just got that 50 or 75 faster. I can’t do better than this.
Still, it wasn’t good enough.
Titmus lived up to his nickname in the end.
“Honestly in the 200 I was a little worried,” said the Australian. “I knew she would be there. No one is going to come to the Olympics and catch a Katie Ledecky off guard. I guess I just had to trust myself.
“I tried to stay as calm as possible and use the easy speed I have. And to be successful in the back end against someone who has an amazing second half of the race, I’m really proud of that. “
Ledecky will get Titmus another chance in the 200 free, and the American is heavily favored to repeat in the 800 and add another gold in the 1500 – a new event for women at these games.
After doing the race in the middle of the pool, the swimmers joined hands at the end.
They went out by the pool together, giving each other a hug.
“I just thanked her,” Titmus said. “I wouldn’t be here without her. She set this standard for middle distance freestyle. If I didn’t have someone like her to hunt, I certainly wouldn’t be swimming the way I am.
Perhaps the safest bet at the pool, Briton Adam Peaty reiterated his title as Olympic champion in the men’s 100 breaststroke.
Peaty was the world record holder and the first man to beat the 58 and 57 seconds in his flagship event. He recorded the fifth fastest time in history (57.37) to wow the peloton.
Arno Kamminga of the Netherlands took silver in 58.00 while bronze went to Italian Nicolo Martinenghi in 58.33. Andrew was next in 58.84.
Maggie MacNeil won Canada’s first pool gold medal with a victory in the women’s 100 butterfly.
The reigning world champion touched first in 55.59, beating Chinese Zhang Yufei (55.64) for first place. Emma McKeon of Australia took the bronze in 55.72, beating 18-year-old Huske by one-hundredth of a second.
Huske came out quickly, as was his style, and appeared to be close to the front with about 10 yards to go. But she passed out on her last strokes and narrowly missed a place on the podium.
Defending champion and world record holder Sarah Sjöström of Sweden was seventh.