'Phenomenal' 400m champion Titmus hailed as Australian great

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Ariarne Titmus (L) of Australia competes during Tokyo 2020 women's 400m freestyle final at Tokyo Aquatics Center in Tokyo, Japan, July 26, 2021. (Xinhua/Xu Chang)

Australian swimmer Ariarne Titmus's victory has been hailed as one of the country's great moments in Olympic history after she won gold in the 400m freestyle at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Titmus, 20, on Monday came from behind to beat reigning Olympic champion and world record holder Kathleen Ledecky in the 400m final in a personal best time of three minutes and 56.69 seconds.

Rio Olympic champion Ledecky took a silver in 3:57.36 and China's Li Bingjie, who set a new Asian record at 4:01.08, bagged the bronze.

"I can't believe it. I'm trying to contain my emotions," Titmus said after the race.

"This past year I don't know whether it's gone fast or slow, but to get here was a relief. To come here and do the job. I'm over the moon."

Her performance has drawn widespread praise in Australia.

Ian Thorpe, one of the greatest swimmers in Australian history, described Titmus's swim in the final as "phenomenal."

"Just phenomenal. We've witnessed one of the great swims by an Australian," Thorpe, a former world record holder in the men's 400m, said on broadcaster the Seven network.

"And she beat one of the greatest ever. Maybe the best female swimmer of all-time."

Dawn Fraser, who grabbed four Olympic gold medals in career, said there was "no way" Ledecky would catch Titmus.

"She knew exactly what she had to do and swimming her own race and not being overshadowed by Ledecky, it made her the winner. It's absolutely wonderful," she said.

The duel between Ledecky and Titmus was billed as one of the biggest in the pool at the Tokyo games.

Following the race, Titmus paid tribute to Ledecky for the "incredible standard" set by the American.

"I wouldn't be here without her," she said.

"The race I tried to stay as composed as I could, then just tried to stick to my race plan. I can't believe I pulled it off."

Titmus will on Monday night compete in the heats for the 200m freestyle, in which she is the favorite to win gold.

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