SYDNEY (Reuters) – Ariarne Titmus’s coach believes the postponement of the Olympics will be a “positive” for the young Australian world champion as she prepares to face American Katie Ledecky in a tantalizing Tokyo showdown.
The Tasmanian teenager stunned the swimming world, and herself, when she won the world 400 meters freestyle title in Gwangju last year, ending Ledecky’s six-year unbeaten run at world championships.
Coach Dean Boxall told Australian Associated Press that, while frustrating, the one-year delay of the Games forced by the COVID-19 pandemic would give her more time to prepare for Tokyo.
“Diamonds are made from pressure and she is certainly a diamond — she lives for the pressure moments,” Boxall said.
“But you also need to build the machinery around her to get ready to handle that pressure…This will be the longest break she has ever had in her short career.”
“It’s actually a positive. Her mind can freshen up.”
Ledecky won the 200-400-800 freestyle triple at the Rio Olympics four years ago, underlining the dominance she enjoyed in the events at world championship level until Titmus beat her to the wall in South Korea.
Titmus conceded earlier this year that Ledecky was still “100%” favorite to clinch back-to-back golds in the 400 in the Tokyo pool.
Maintaining that level-headed approach in her quest to dethrone the queen of freestyle swimming reflects a grounded attitude to all the success the 19-year-old has enjoyed to date.
“She wasn’t jumping around and being arrogant when she became world champion,” Boxall added.
“She doesn’t walk around like ‘I am world champion, I beat Ledecky’. Not at all, quite the opposite actually.
“I make sure of that.”
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Shri Navaratnam)