The road to a stunning Olympic gold medal for Australia’s new golden girl, Ariarne Titmus, was built on family sacrifice and commitment.
The 20-year-old is the toast of the country after her heroics on Monday to take down American swimming great Katie Ledecky in the final of the 400m freestyle in Tokyo.
Titmus has been drawn to swimming pools since she was a toddler, but the Olympic journey really began six years ago when her enormous talent was first realised by people at the top.
Her father, Steve Titmus, spoke to Fox Sports’ Olympics podcast, The Tokyo Daily, immediately after watching his daughter triumph on the world’s biggest stage.
“It was extraordinary. (We are) immensely proud,” he said.
Kath Loughnan and Nick Riewoldt speak to Ariane Titmus’ dad, Steve, after the new queen of the pool delivered one of Australia’s finest ever Olympics performances. Also, Michael Klim joins the podcast.
“We were just hoping that Arnie would swim a race that she was happy with. She executed it with absolute precision, and we knew when she turned at the 50-metre mark if she was within a body length and a half of Katie she would mow her down, because she’s got so much speed in the back end.
“We’re still coming to grips with it. Such a proud moment, it’s unbelievable.”
Steve, his wife Robyn, and youngest daughter Mia are all key figures in the story of Ariarne’s Olympic success.
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It was them who decided to uproot the entire family and move from Launceston in Tasmania, to Queensland to kickstart a professional swimming career for the oldest sibling.
“Arnie had got to the age of 14 and she won her first national junior championship, and Swimming Australia said to us ‘if she wants to go further… and fulfil her dream of being an Olympian, Tasmania is a place where there’s not the culture, there’s not the development to be able to do that, so you’re going to have to move to Queensland’,” Steve explained.
“It wasn’t a case of us having to go, ‘oh, let’s think about that over the next 12 or 18 months’, because there wasn’t enough time to do that.
“So we took about three months through a process of working out how are we going to get the move, what’s it going to look like, how are going to make all that happen?
“We’ve got careers, both of us, so it was a case of Robin and Ariarne and Ariarne’s sister moved up here first, and I stayed back in Tasmania to pack up the house. The first time in our marriage that we had been separated.
“So I moved up to Queensland without a job, purely and simply to give Ariarne the opportunity. We’re just in awe of how she took that and made the most of it.
“We didn’t have to push her at any time during her career to actually motivate her. But it was a big move to make at the time.
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“It’s not an easy road, it’s been one where we’ve had to keep everything going along, tick all the boxes as we go along, and here we are today.”
Six years later and the sacrifice and commitment has culminated in Olympic gold.
Steve says in the face of it all, his daughter Ariarne hasn’t changed too much from the kid who he couldn’t keep out of the pool all those years ago.
“In our house at home we’re there to provide a safe and stable environment. We don’t talk about swimming a lot, believe it or not,” he said.
“Arnie doesn’t like to talk about swimming. What she does like to do is she relaxes by cooking, she’s a fabulous cook, and I’m not so that’s terrific.
“We’re just in awe of how a girl who’s only 20 years of age can have such a steely focus and determination and resolve, to go out there and achieve what she wants to achieve.
“She’s just an ordinary young woman at home. She still gets up about 5am every morning to go train, and doesn’t get home until 8 o’clock.
“It’s on great adventure, this whole thing. An hour before the race I had to go and have some time on my own, I just stood around a swimming pool at the resort where we’re staying,” he said.
“I just stared at the water and thought back on the whole journey from where we’ve come.
“I thought back to the day I took Ariarne to her very first swimming lesson… she always wanted to put her head under the water, and got told off by the swimming instructor.
“I thought, ‘wow, here we are, my daughter who not that long ago was being told off for putting her head under the water, to now on the greatest stage on earth, and about to swim in what is being billed as the greatest showdown of the Olympics’.
“I took a moment, I cried a lot.”