Titmus third woman ever to break four minutes
KATIE Ledecky may have won the battle but the shot Ariarne Titmus fired across the bow in the 400m freestyle could mean she wins the war at the Tokyo Olympics.
Titmus became only the third woman in history to break the four-minute mark for the 400m, pushing Ledecky all the way at the Pan Pacs in Tokyo before finishing second to the great American distance champion in 3:59.66, just 1.16sec behind.
The 17-year-old was thrilled with her effort, not only because she broke through 4min but for what it says about her 2020 campaign.
"It's all part of the two-year plan," said Titmus, who finished her Pan Pac campaign with three silver medals.
"I've swum really well in (the 400m and 800m) and not doing as quick as I wanted in the 200m (here) was because I've been doing the extra distance training which can sacrifice a bit of speed.
"But I'm so happy with the 800m and the 400m."
Titmus shaved more than a second from her previous best, the 4:00.93 she set to win the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in April.
And it's her incredible progression, as much as the times themselves, that give a hint she could push Ledecky to the limit by the 2020 Games.
Titmus's Brisbane coach Dean Boxall is a hard task master and usually able to find something wrong with her performance.
But the St Peters Western mentor had only an embrace for the teen after Saturday night's race.
"It's amazing (to break the 4min). Dean said to me, don't think of it as just a little thing, it's a massive deal, only two other girls have ever done it," she said of world record-holder Ledecky and Italy's Federica Pellegrini, who broke the mark in the supersuit era.
"So it's a massive achievement and I've worked so hard for this, I'm really excited."
Ledecky though has welcomed the threat.
"It's exciting for me to see that. I was the only one under four minutes in a textile suit for a few years now," she said.
"I think it's exciting for me to see how I've put the standard out there and I know that a lot of girls are chasing that.
"It's good to see someone get under it and it's going to push me to go even faster and set the benchmark a little higher."
Titmus pushed Ledecky like few have before and the teen is certainly not in awe of the American.
"It was heaps of fun, I felt really good in the race, I think the whole crowd gave me extra energy at the end and it didn't hurt as much, I think the adrenalin really helped me along," she said.
"It was great being that close to Katie, I could try and see where I was at up against her.
"It's a great feeling racing someone better than me because I can keep track of where I'm at.
"She keeps pushing me along which is great, it's something I don't get at home.
"Whenever I get to race people faster than me, it's lots of fun."
Jack McLoughlin made it a golden double for Australia in the 400m, beating favourite Mack Horton as the Dolphins quinellaed the race.
Olympic champion Horton (3:44.31) came late but failed to reel in McLoughlin (3:44.20), who made amends for a lacklustre 1500m on the opening day of competition.
Emma McKeon was third in the 100m butterfly behind Japanese teen Rikako Ikee.