“Initially, it sucks,” Titmus said. “You break a world record and you are naive in thinking it’s going to stand for a while. World records are there to be broken. It means the world of swimming is moving forward.
“I want to get confidence out of my racing at this meet. I tend to now go into every swim without an expectation. I think I swim my best when I don’t set targets. It’s now setting a plan around what I want to do in that [400m freestyle] race. I would love to be under four minutes … but I’ll see how I go.”
No one will remember these championships when – all going to plan – Titmus, McIntosh and American legend Katie Ledecky compete for gold in the women’s 400m freestyle final on the opening night of competition at Paris 2024.
But Titmus lets her mind wander for a second, allowing herself to imagine what a showdown between three of the greatest swimmers of all time will be like.
At the 2004 Athens Olympics, Ian Thorpe won the “Race of the Century” in the men’s 200m freestyle, ahead of Pieter van den Hoogenband, Michael Phelps and Aussie teammate Grant Hackett.
The Titmus-McIntosh-Ledecky showdown may become the female “Race of the Century”.
“I feel very honoured that I’m a part of that,” Titmus said. “I never ever thought I’d be a part of something that will probably be part of swimming history. This is a bonus now. I’ve achieved everything I’ve wanted to achieve in my swimming career. My motivation now is what I can get out of myself. I truly believe I have more to offer the sport and I still love the sport and that’s why I’m swimming.
“At that point, it’s who can handle it on the day and everything surrounding the race. The Olympics is not really about how fast you’re swimming. It’s about who can get their hand on the wall first that day. You don’t tend to see many world records broken at Olympics compared to other meets because of the high stakes. It’s who can keep their head switched on in the important moments.
“It makes it more exciting for our event. I don’t think there’s ever been a race where there are three women swimming so fast at the same time. That’ll be very cool to watch.”
Titmus’ coach, Dean Boxall, is using McIntosh’s eye-catching time to keep his athlete focused.
“I think he likes it … he likes a new challenge,” Titmus said. “We’ve gone through the process before of being the underdog. I like that.”
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