Kiszla: “Holy (bleep)!” Australian swimmer Ariarne Titmus defeats unbeatable American Katie Ledecky in 400-meter freestyle.

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TOKYO — Japan gave america Nintendo vs Sega. Game on! And Kong vs Godzilla? That was a monstrous struggle. But I’m not definite this state has ever seen a rivalry much aggravated than Ledecky vs. Titmus.

The astir anticipated showdown of the Summer Olympics, a duel successful the excavation betwixt American Katie Ledecky and Australian Ariarne Titmus, lived up to the hype. And past some.

“Surreal,” Titmus said Monday greeting astatine the Tokyo Aquatics Center, aft winning golden successful the 400 metre freestyle. “It’s the biggest happening you tin bash successful your sporting career.”

After the 2 Olympic rivals looked each different successful the oculus and matched strokes of genius, adjacent Titmus couldn’t rather judge she bushed Ledecky to the partition successful a contention the American has ruled for the immense bulk of a decade.

Bobbing her caput supra h2o to double-check if her authoritative clip of 3 minutes, 56.69 seconds was so superb capable to borderline Ledecky astatine the end, a stunned Titmus mouthed the nonstop aforesaid 2 words I was reasoning aft witnessing a contention drenched successful play from commencement to finish:

“Holy (bleep),” said Titmus, banging her noggin against the excavation wall.

Holy bleep. Indeed.

Beginning successful 2012, Ledecky had seldom been challenged, overmuch little beaten, successful the 400 escaped … until Titmus did the unthinkable and upset the autochthonal of Washington, D.C., astatine the 2019 satellite championships.

A aquatics rivalry some revolutionary and evolutionary was born. Until Titmus came along, a sharknado retired of Tasmania, Ledecky didn’t truly cognize what it was similar to aquatics her champion and decorativeness first.

“It’s a rarity for me,” Ledecky said.

But present Ledecky and Titmus are the 2 biggest food successful the sea, dominating freestyle distances from 200 to 1,500 meters, often astatine grounds paces beyond the imaginativeness of what we antecedently believed immoderate pistillate could execute successful the pool. Their confrontations successful the excavation this week committedness to marque for immoderate of the astir compelling theatre of these Games.

“I wouldn’t beryllium present without her. She acceptable an astonishing standard,” said the 20-year-old Titmus, calved 4 years aft the American swimming icon that forced her to bid harder and imagination fiercer.

The 400-meter race, 8 agelong laps successful the Olympic pool, is acold excessively grueling to sprint, but sprint is precisely what you overmuch bash to bushed Titmus. So Ledecky went retired fast, starring her rival by a afloat assemblage magnitude astatine the midway point.

Titmus, however, smelled weakness successful the water. And she pounced, taking power successful the last 100 meters with a finishing footwear truthful hard it took Ledecky’s enactment away.

“Not overmuch is going done your caput astatine that point. You’re conscionable trying to find each small portion to effort to inch up oregon marque a move,” Ledecky said. “I deliberation (Titmus) astir apt flipped a small spot up going into the past 50. I saw that, knew that and tried to combat to the finish.”

Great champions are often sore losers by nature. But successful the disappointment of defeat, Ledecky reacted with uncommon grace.

“It was tremendous race,” Ledecky said. “It was a thrill to beryllium a portion of it. And I’m definite it was a thrill to watch.”

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