By Greg Stutchbury
GOLD COAST, Australia (Reuters) – Ariarne Titmus lived up to her ‘Terminator’ nickname and assumed the mantle as the best women’s long-distance freestyle swimmer in the Commonwealth when she won the 800 meters title at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre on Monday.
The 17-year-old Australian, nicknamed Arnie at an early age that has since morphed into Terminator after the Arnold Schwarzenegger character, established a body-length lead inside the first 100m and maintained her relentless pace through the middle stages before she kicked away in the final 200m.
She clocked eight minutes, 20.02 seconds to clinch her first individual gold medal of the Games.
Compatriot Jessica Ashwood finished second in 8:27.60, with Kiah Melverton storming home in the final 50 meters to claim bronze and give the host nation a clean sweep of medals.
“I wanted to go a bit quicker, but a meet like this is about racing,” said Titmus, who had been hoping to break 8:20.00 and look to begin to reel in the times set by the imperious American Olympic champion Katie Ledecky.
“Sometimes at these big meets it’s not the fastest times, but I’m happy to be the first person to get my hand on the wall.”
Titmus had been tipped before the Gold Coast Games of potentially becoming the first woman since fellow Australian Karen Moras in 1970 to win the 200-400-800 treble.
Despite being roared on by a fanatical crowd, including her father Steve, a local television reporter whose reaction has become a viral sensation, she finished second in the 200m last Thursday to Canada’s Taylor Ruck.
While she claimed her first gold when she anchored home Australia’s 4x200m freestyle relay team on Saturday, she said she felt more satisfaction with her individual victory on Monday.
“I think my individual gold means a lot more than relay gold; to know you have done it yourself,” she said.
“Obviously being in the relay team is great, but I think the satisfaction of being a Commonwealth champion is really exciting and I’m happy that I could perform well.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by John O’Brien and Christian Radnedge)