Less than a month after the Tasmanian athlete of the year award and already competition is hotting up for next year’s.
Officially, 2019 may still be a fortnight away but the period of eligibility has already commenced and Tasmania’s finest haven’t been caught on their blocks.
Runner Stewart McSweyn and cyclist Macey Stewart have claimed national titles, basketballers Sejr Deans and Zoe Crawford secured Oceania glory while cricketers Jarrod Freeman and Keegan Oates achieved national selection.
Eddie Ockenden’s last-minute heroics helped Australia to another global medal as the Kookaburras secured World Cup bronze in India on the same day that Amy Pauwels also medalled on the world stage by claiming a silver in the madison at the track world cup in England.
Meanwhile two other Tasmanian athlete of the year winners, Richie Porte and Jake Birtwhistle, can be seen training around Launceston ahead of pivotal years in their respective cycling and triathlon careers.
But in terms of breaking new ground – or rather water – in Tasmanian sport, Launceston-born teenager Ariarne Titmus is enjoying almost as many hits as her beloved Justin Bieber.
By winning two individual events, setting a world record and adding a bronze medal in the relay at the short-course swimming world championships in China this week, Titmus had state and national sport historians frantically scanning their record books.
She is only the fifth Australian to win the 400m at an Olympics or world championship, joining Lorraine Crapp (1956 in Melbourne), Shane Gould (1972 in Munich), Tracey Wickham (1978 in Berlin) and Kylie Palmer (2008 in Manchester).
The 18-year-old also joined Crapp, Gould and Wickham as world record holders.
Aside from Bicheno-based Gould becoming an adopted Tasmanian, Titmus’s achievements take her home state’s swimming achievements deep into unchartered waters.
While Tassie has traditionally struggled against more populous and sunny mainland states like Queensland, its swimming pedigree is a proud one.
John Hayes (1956), current Launceston Aquatic coach Peter Tonkin (1964), Audrey Youl, Brett Stocks (both 1984) and Scott Goodman (1996) all represented Australia at Olympic Games with Goodman and Tonkin winning bronze medals while Melissa Carlton dominated the 1996 and 2000 Paralympic Games.
It also surprised many that Titmus – who relocated to Brisbane in 2015 – was not Tasmania’s first world champion in the pool.
At the same championships in Rio de Janeiro in 1995, Goodman won the 200m butterfly in an event and Australian record time.
However, when Titmus touched the timepad in Hangzhou 3 minutes 53.92 seconds after diving in for the 400m freestyle, it not only relegated China’s Jianjiahe Wang into second and claimed her world record but sounded alarm bells across the Pacific.
Katie Ledecky, America’s five-time Olympic and 14-time world champion, and Taylor Ruck, Bieber’s Canadian compatriot whose 200m freestyle win denied Titmus a clean sweep of four gold medals at April’s Commonwealth Games, may prefer to focus on the more prestigious long-course titles but would not have missed the Australian’s takeaways from China.
Along with Wang, the quartet of female distance freestyle specialists are as young as they are fast.
Ledecky is 21, Ruck and Titmus 18 and Wang just 16 suggesting a healthy rivalry for the foreseeable future even in such a young person’s sport.
All are likely to be reunited on either side of the Sea of Japan at the next long-course champs in Gwangju, South Korea, in July followed by the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Such far-flung locations all seem a long way from the Riverside and Launceston pools where Titmus began swimming but demonstrate both her phenomenal progress and the global reach of Tasmanian athletes.