It was the hour of power Australia will never forget.
First came the girls, next the boys.
Then it was back to one particular girl: Ariarne ‘Terminator’ Titmus.
What a day.
It started with the Australian women’s coxless* four claiming Olympic gold in a historic day for world rowing.
Holding off a fast finishing Netherlands, Australia’s women crossed the line first in 6 minutes 15.37 seconds.
Current world champions, the Aussie crew of Rosemary Popa, Lucy Stephan, Annabelle McIntyre and Jessica Morrison badly wanted the win after earlier setting an Olympic record in their heat.
Early pressure saw Netherlands just a blink behind the Australians at the 250m mark and at 1000m they had pulled a second ahead – but the crew had to better their heat time by 13 seconds for an Olympic best.
Stephan, from Nhill in country Victoria, said she was thinking of her family.
“I hope they’re all watching. I went down that course thinking of them,” she said.
“Very proud country girl. So excited to come from such a small place. If you set your mind to anything, anything is possible.”
Popa was in tears as she described the team’s journey to gold.
“It’s been a lot of B finals – 15 years,” she said.
“Our fours have been so brave. We’re such a unit and (there’s) so much trust; pretty hard conditions today but there was never a doubt in the boat.
“I know everyone at home is so proud. They’ve been through the tears and ups and downs – this is as much for them as it is for us.”
Heart rates went crazy again just minutes later as the Australian men’s coxless four made it two from two in another tight finish.
The Aussies boast arguably* the world’s best rower in Alex Hill in stroke, joined by Alex Purnell, Spencer Turrin and Jack Hargreaves.
By 500m they had clear water and a 13-second lead but by the last 50m a fast finishing Romania almost snatched victory, finishing just 0.37 seconds behind with Italy third.
Australia’s men’s and women’s quad sculls also both won bronze in their events, capping off an unforgettable morning of rowing.
Without skipping a beat, all eyes turned to the pool and Ariarne Titmus’ gold medal bid in the 200m freestyle.
And just two days after her stunning win over Katie Ledecky in the 400m freestyle final, Titmus got the gold.
Trailing third with just one lap to go, Titmus dug deep and clawed her way to the front to win in 1:53.50, setting a new Olympic record.
“It hasn’t really set in after the 400m,” Titmus said. “I just had to forget about it to prepare for this race.”
Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey won the silver medal in 1:53.92 after leading at the 150m mark while the bronze medal went to Canada’s Penny Oleksiak. Ledecky placed fifth.
“I knew I had Katie covered but Siobhan was the person that was there,” Titmus told Channel 7 after the race.
“I don’t think it will settle in until I get home and have a rest.
“I mean, when you’re in this situation you kind of – like, you have to compartmentalise* everything and I think once I stop racing I can release everything.
“I don’t want to ruin the rest of my meet by celebrating too hard but I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved.
“I feel so fortunate to be here, to be able to do what I love and I’m just from a small town in Tasmania and it just goes to show if you believe you can do something, you can 100 per cent do it if you work for it.”
Her mother, Robyn Titmus, was over the moon.
“You know, this is so tight and she always comes home strong,” she told Channel 7. “Us Aussies, we’ve got swimmers that leave it to the last few metres before they touch the wall first.
“Honestly, we were nearly having a heart attack.”
Titmus is just the third Australian to win the 200m and 400m double at an Olympic Games, joining Shane Gould and Ian Thorpe.
- coxless: a boat with oarsmen but no coxswain sitting in the stern facing the crew
- arguably: a popular opinion or belief that could be argued for
- compartmentalise: divide into separate sections or parts
- Which country kept up the pressure on the Australian women’s coxless four?
- Which country nearly snatched victory from the Australian men’s coxless four?
- What other medals did the Aussies win in rowing, making this a historic medal haul?
- What was Ariarne Titmus’ Olympic record time in the 200m freestyle?
- Titmus really had to work hard – who was leading at the 150m mark?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. A team name
The Aussie men’s rowing team who won back to back gold medals at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics were nicknamed the Oarsome Foursome. Can you think of great team nicknames for the Aussie women’s and men’s rowing teams who won gold at Tokyo?
Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and Creative Thinking
Choose something from this story that inspires you. Create an artwork or write a story that will help other kids to be inspired by this, too!
Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Arts, Personal and Social Capability
My Olympic Hero
Write a letter to one of the Olympic athletes. Explain to them how proud you are of them, why they are an Olympic hero to you, and that you have noticed them. Your letter can be anonymous or you can personally sign it off.
Remember when writing a letter:
- Start with a greeting such as “Dear Sir,”
- Then on a new line, write the body of the letter
- Finish with a closing such as “Kind regards,”
- And finally, sign the letter
Try to include detail and emotion in the letter to connect with your target audience, your Olympic hero.