The battle of the 17-year-old swimming sensations
Seventeen could be the magic number in the pool at GC2018, with three teen stars among the medal favourites for the women’s 200m freestyle final.
Australia’s Ariarne Titmus joins Canada’s Penny Oleksiak and Taylor Ruck in the final tonight, with all three serious contenders for the gold medal.
They each have packed programs – Oleksiak and Ruck are entered in eight events and Titmus in four – and it’s their very first Commonwealth Games.
“I’m really excited, I’m also a little bit nervous, Ruck told GC2018.com.
“I haven’t done individual events at a Games so that’s going to be different but I’m very excited.
“I’ve never been here before and I’m kind of experiencing everything for the first time so I’m just taking it in.”
While Oleksiak was the breakout story of the Rio Olympics, Ruck has been quietly shaping as Canada’s next swim star.
There’s a degree of pressure that comes with the territory.
“I think there’s a certain amount of pressure for every athlete on this team and I guess on every team,” she said.
“I’m very excited to be as young as I am along with Penny, the other athletes so I think that’s pretty cool just to be able to experience the Games this young and have our whole careers ahead of us.”
Titmus, nicknamed the Terminator, is the fastest qualifier in 1:57.02, with Ruck touching the wall at 1:57.44 and Oleksiak at 1:58.21.
Taking prime position in lane four, Titmus will be a favourite for the gold medal, but she refuses to feel the pressure.
“I know what I have to do to swim fast and I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing,” she said after the heats.
Oleksiak is the 100m Olympic champion and record holder, but has been waiting two years to compete in the 200m freestyle event on the world stage.
It’s the event she is most looking forward to and it all comes down to tonight’s race.
“I’ve been training so hard for my 200 free this year and it’s been a lot of endurance training which I don’t normally do,” she said.
“I’m excited to swim a whole mixed program but mainly the 200, just because of the build up I’ve had for the last couple of years with that.”
Ruck and Oleksiak were part of the bronze medal-winning 4x200m freestyle team at the Rio Olympics and Titmus made her international debut at the 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest.
At 18, England’s Holly Hibbott is also making her Commonwealth Games debut and reigning champion and Games record holder Emma McKeon is also among the finalists, with only two seconds separating all eight athletes in the heat swims.
It could be anyone’s race but one thing is for sure. Whatever the result, with three young athletes setting the standard, it’s an exciting time for swimming.
Like Ruck said – they’ve got their whole careers ahead of them.
The women’s 200m freestyle final is on at Optus Aquatic Centre tonight. Limited tickets are still available.