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Special Interest Matter - Ariarne Titmus

Tuesday 24 August 2021

[11.25 a.m.]

Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Thank you, Mr President. Had I realised the member for Prosser had her motions earlier, I could have incorporated my special interest speech. My speech today is about Launceston and Tasmania's golden girl, Ariarne Titmus, whose achievements at the Tokyo Olympic Games give an entirely new definition to the term Olympic.

Riveted to our seats when Ariarne was competing, I am sure most were aware Ariarne was selected to represent Australia at the Tokyo Olympics and won two gold medals for the 400m freestyle and 200m freestyle events. In the 400m freestyle, not only did Ariarne win the gold, she edged out the world record holder, American Katie Ledecky, by less than a second for a final finishing time of 3 minutes and 56.69 seconds, a Commonwealth record. Not completely done with her achievements, Ariarne went on to set an Olympic record for the 200m freestyle for a time of 1 minute and 53.5 seconds. Again, taking the gold with a tremendous final push in the last lap.

We, along with many others including her mum, Robyn and dad, Steve, were on the edge of our seats cheering Ariarne on and were left with absolute elation when she brought it home. Ariarne joined only two other Australians to achieve this feat - Shane Gould and Ian Thorpe - what an absolutely elite trio.

For anyone who has not seen it, I would recommend looking up the reaction of Ariarne's coach, Dean Boxall, at her win. I would be surprised if anyone has not seen it, but one of the classic viral reactions of our age. There is nothing that could better express how we all felt for Ariarne in those moments. Aside from her wins in the 200m and 400m events, Ariarne also won the silver medal in the 800m freestyle and was a part of the relay team that took the bronze in the 4 x 200m relay event. What an absolutely incredible young woman.

The immediate reactions aside, I can assure you following Ariarne's wins, everyone in Launceston stood a good few inches taller. The absolute pride we have all felt over the past few weeks has been a welcome source of joy in what has otherwise been a reasonably trying year for many.

Born in Launceston, Ariarne is only 20 years old. There has been a great deal of lighthearted conversation online, perhaps concealing a bit of deeper parochialism, about whether Ariarne is Tasmanian or a Queenslander. I think I can guess the sentiment of those in this place. After all, Ariarne was born in Launceston, went to school at St Patrick's College and her parents, Steve and Robyn, have contributed a great deal to our northern community and are themselves greatly involved in sporting achievement in Tasmania and elsewhere.

Ariarne's wins at the Tokyo Games are the product of many years of refining and building her natural talents. She and her family have dedicated a great deal of time and effort into honing her skills. Her medals were not just handed to her, they were well and truly earned. Ariarne's Olympic career has been preceded by competitions at the 2017 World Championships, where she won a bronze medal in the women's 4 x 200m freestyle relay and a fourth place in the women's 400m freestyle. In 2018, at just 18 years of age, Ariarne broke the world record at the World Short Course Championships in the women's 400m freestyle with a time of 3 minutes and 53.92 seconds. That year also saw Ariarne win three gold medals at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in the 400m freestyle, the 800m freestyle and the 4 x 200m freestyle relay. Ariarne also scored the silver in the 200m freestyle at the Commonwealth Games that year.

For many years, this has meant very early mornings and very late evenings. It has meant travelling and competing internationally, and sacrificing a lot of the things that most young women in their late-teens and early twenties consider to be normal but that is just the thing - Ariarne is not normal. She is an extraordinary young woman whose achievements will likely signal the start of a superstar athletic career. While we cheered on from Launceston and her family cheered on from Queensland, we could all share in these incredible achievements.

Mr President, I sincerely congratulate Ariarne on her wins at the Tokyo Games, send my warmest wishes to Steve, Robyn and Ariarne's sister Mia and look forward to a stellar career to come.


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