Mercury (Hobart)



IN those final, tense days counting down to the start of the Tokyo Olympics, Ariarne Titmus was the athlete most Tasmanians – indeed, much of the country – were excitedly waiting to see. Her elite talent was obvious. Her reputation as a ferocious racer known to teammates and rivals.

The young swimmer, still just 20 in Tokyo 2021, had made a big splash when she won gold at the 2019 world championsh­ips.

But this was the Olympics, the biggest stage of all. Could she handle the nerves, the great expectatio­n thrust upon her by a medal-hungry crowd?

And most challengin­g of all, could she take down US star Katie Ledecky, one of the greatest female swimmers of all time.

Could she ever?

Gold in the 400m freestyle in a thrilling victory over Ledecky was the stuff sporting dreams were made of.

That she followed it up with gold in the 200m freestyle a couple of nights later was simply awe-inspiring.

As proud mum Robyn told a national television audience shortly after her daughter touched the wall to win her second gold – “God, she can race!”

Titmus was not just one of Australia’s great Tokyo success stories, but one of the biggest stars of the Games.

What a thrill then for the young Tasmanian swimmers who, on Tuesday, got to meet Titmus at the Launceston Aquatic Centre.

It was not that many years ago that Titmus herself was a junior swimmer like some of the boys and girls she met at the swim clinic. Who knows what Tuesday’s meeting might inspire these young Tasmanians to do, what goals it may fire within?

Titmus, despite her ascension to global swimming star, has always appeared humble and grounded. Her work ethic is second-to-none. She appears to be a wonderful role model for young athletes.

On Wednesday, she will visit her former high school, St Patrick’s College, and on Friday, will be presented with the key to the city by Launceston Mayor Albert van Zetten.

It’s wonderful to see her back in Tasmania, enjoying recognitio­n for her achievemen­ts, but also giving back to her sport and her community.

Yes, Titmus did leave this state in her early teens to further her swimming career in Queensland, but she has remained Tasmanian to her core.

As the Mercury reported in an interview with Ariarne’s father Steve Titmus, in July – “Once you are a Tasmanian you are always a Tasmanian,” he said. “She (Ariarne) is still enormously proud that she’s come from Tasmania.”

As are we, to call her our own. If fitness and form hold, there is good reason to believe Titmus will give Tasmanians plenty to be proud of in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

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