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Ariarne Titmus opens Australia Olympic Swim Trials with near world record

Ariarne Titmus helped set the stage for an Olympic showdown by swimming the second-fastest 400m freestyle in history to open Australia’s trials for the Paris Games.

Titmus clocked 3 minutes, 55.44 seconds, missing her world record by six hundredths in Brisbane. She was 39 hundredths under her world record pace at 350 meters.

"(Coach) Dean (Boxall) send me a text this afternoon saying you’re free like a bird,” she said on Australia’s Nine network. “So I had a free hit out. I knew if I did my job tonight, I’d be going to Paris. Pressure’s kind of off as well. As long as I do my job, I’d be fine. So it was more of a chance for me to practice my race plan and see how it would go. But it doesn’t matter about what happens here. It’s about what happens in six weeks’ time.”

Titmus, the reigning Olympic and world champion in the 400m free, now owns five of the top seven times in history.

In March 2023, then-16-year-old Canadian Summer McIntosh took the world record from Titmus. Four months later, Titmus took it back at the world championships.

Katie Ledecky, the Rio Olympic gold medalist in the event, held the world record from 2016 until Titmus broke it for the first time in 2022.

Ledecky will bid to qualify for Paris in the event on the first night of the U.S. Olympic Trials on Saturday in Indianapolis, live on NBC, NBCOlympics.com and Peacock.

Also Monday, Kaylee McKeown won the 200m individual medley in 2:06.63 to become the third-fastest performer in history in that event.

The only faster swimmers in history are Hungarian Katinka Hosszu (2:06.12, 2:06.58) and American Ariana Kukors (2:06.15)

McKeown swam the world’s best time in nearly eight years in an event where American Kate Douglass is the two-time reigning world champion.

“You never know what can happen, the Americans are up next week (at the U.S. Olympic Trials),” McKeown said. “So I’m just going to put my best foot forward, and hopefully in Paris, my foot’s better.”

McKeown is the reigning Olympic and world champion and world record holder in the 100m and 200m backstrokes.

In the 200m IM, she took silver at the 2022 Worlds, then was disqualified after her semifinal at the 2023 Worlds for an illegal turn.

In Paris, the women’s 200m IM semifinals are about 50 minutes after the women’s 200m back final on Aug. 2.

Kate Douglass, a Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist, is now the world’s most versatile swimmer.