By Rob Cole
Welsh swim queen Jazz Carlin is going will have to beat the Australian ‘Terminator’ if she wants to hold on to her Commonwealth Games 800 metre title on the Gold Coast.
Rising Aussie star Ariarne Titmus was only five-years-old when Carlin made her debut at the Games in Melbourne in 2006. The Welsh idol was 15 at the time, while Titmus is shaking up the top end of the swimming word over 800 metres at the age of 17.
Nicknamed ‘The Terminator’, she became the first woman in a decade, and only the sixth of all-time, to win the 200, 400 and 800 metre Freestyle treble at the Australian championships to claim her place at her first Games.
The Titmus family moved from Tasmania to Brisbane in 2015 to boost their daughter’s chances of going for gold at the Games. The plan certainly seems to be working.
After her shock win in the 200 Freestyle she went on to defend her 400 title at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games swim trials, winning by more than five seconds in a time of 4 min, 02.36 sec that eclipsed her own national record.
When it came to the 800 metres she had set herself the target of 8 min, 20 sec, but eventually fell short at 8.20.06 – another personal best.
Carlin notched a Games record in Glasgow with her winning time of 8.18.11in the 800 metres and took silver behind New Zealand’s Lauren Boyle over 400 metres in 4.05.16. Her personal bests, and Welsh record times, are 8.15.54 (2014) and 4.01.23 (2016).
Titmus is coached by Dean Boxall, a typical tough-talking, no-nonsense Aussie sporting guru, who pushes her to her limits to get the best out of her.
“Some of the things he says aren’t quite appropriate to share publicly, but he always says if I get better he has to push harder, so it’s been tough,” quipped Titmus.
“I keep my ground, I think, but he pushes me harder than anyone else in the squad. He is always on my back, there is never a moment I can relax, and I always have to be on.”
Titmus made her Australian junior debut last year and also made the senior World Championships. She finished fourth in the 400 metres, just missing a medal behind the great American Katie Ledecky.
Not bad for a 16-year-old learning her trade at her first major event . . . but not goo enough for Boxall!
“At the end of training he says, ‘if you do this time you get the gold, if not you get fourth’. He pushes my buttons sometimes,” added Titmus.
“A lot of people couldn’t handle it. But it keeps me mentally tough for racing. I know he is only trying to help me and that he believes in me so much.”
Every Commonwealth Games unearths a new swimming star and Titmus aims to be the new kid on the block in 2018. Carlin will be aware of her talent and has a wealth of experience on her side.
Coming into her fourth Games, the Welsh superstar has four Commonwealth and two Olympic medals to her credit already. In 2010 in Delhi she won Wales’ first medal of the Games with silver in the 200 Freestyle and followed that up with a bronze in the 400.
Four years later in Glasgow, she became the first Welsh woman to win gold in the pool since Pat Beavan in 1974 with her triumph in the 800 metres and moved up to silver in the 400. Two years later she won two silvers at the Olympic Games.
“I always feel really proud representing Wales as it’s a really small team, but it feels like a family when you come together,” said Carlin.
“It does help that the Games are in Australia with the nice weather and the beaches. I want to be at my best to race the Australians and the Kiwis and be on that podium again.”
Illness forced Carlin to pull out of last year’s World Championships and in the autumn she launched a new career as an open water swimmer, making her debut at the FINA World Cup in China. With one eye on 10k marathon swim at the 2020 Olympics, Carlin is also looking to push for the inaugural 1500 metre crown in the pool in Tokyo.
Here bold bid to become the first woman to win medals in both the pool and open water at the same Olympics has raised a few eyebrows, but she has always risen to a challenge.
“People think I’m crazy,” said Carlin. “I’m terrified of jellyfish as well, but it’s all new and a really fresh test.”
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