Titmus aims to be Nadal of swimming

Australian Ariarne Titmus wants to dominate in the pool like Rafael Nadal on the tennis court.
Australian Ariarne Titmus wants to dominate in the pool like Rafael Nadal on the tennis court.

Her sights may be set on defeating swimming's "greatest": US legend Katie Ledecky.

But Australia's Ariarne Titmus has revealed a much loftier goal - becoming the Rafael Nadal of the pool.

Titmus, 18, is primed to finally threaten Ledecky at next month's world titles in South Korea after a successful selection trials in Brisbane this week.

Her highlight at the six-day trials was clocking a 400m freestyle Commonwealth record on Sunday night, just 0.07 of a second behind Ledecky's 2019 best, set on the same day at a US meet.

Toppling US giant Ledecky would be the greatest achievement of Titmus' short career.

However, it pales in comparison to what Titmus ultimately wants to accomplish.

Rather than be known as five-time Olympic gold medallist Ledecky's conqueror, Titmus aims to be considered in the same company as her idol - 18-time grand slam tennis champion Nadal.

Titmus said she hit the selection trials in Brisbane still buzzing from Nadal's 12th French Open triumph.

"I admire Rafael Nadal. He is my favourite athlete for being on top of his sport for that long," Titmus said.

"I am trying to be someone like him.

"You never know. I will keep staying positive and keep chipping away."

Yet Ledecky is also an inspiration to Titmus.

The American has set an impossibly high yardstick in women's distance swimming since winning 2012 Olympic 800m gold at just 15.

The 22-year-old currently holds the world record in the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle.

Rather than fear Ledecky, an unfazed Titmus said the American's feats had only motivated her to aim higher.

"I am grateful for Katie," said Titmus, who also holds the 200m freestyle Commonwealth record and national 800m mark.

"If you don't have someone who pushes you I don't think I would be as fast as I am.

"If you always have something to chase, you are always going to get better."

Her animated coach Dean Boxall is another major motivating factor.

The hard-marking mentor is never satisfied, even asking for improvement from Titmus moments after her stunning 400m record effort at the trials.

"Sometimes you have to be happy with swims but we set pretty high standards," Titmus said of Boxall.

"After my PB (personal best) in the 400m most people would be happy but I am in a situation where I want to beat someone who is the greatest (Ledecky).

"I can't have that mentality where I am happy with a swim when I am trying to beat someone who is the greatest."

Australian Associated Press