Mum's joy as Kaylee McKeown wins Olympic gold

Published 3:16pm 27 July 2021

Mum's joy as Kaylee McKeown wins Olympic gold
Words by Nick Crockford

Sharon McKeown admitted she did not sleep well last night ahead of her daughter Kaylee’s bid for Olympic gold today.

But those nerves turned to joy, just before noon, when Kaylee McKeown produced a stunning performance to win the 100m Backstroke in Tokyo.

The 20-year-old, who was born in Redcliffe and went to school at St Paul's Lutheran Primary in Caboolture, stormed home in a nail-biting finish.

She came from the middle of the pack at the turn, up to second entering the final 25m and touched first to become Australia's newest Olympic champion by just a quarter of one second.

Hard work

“I’m feeling a bit better now we’ve just had something to eat,” said Mrs McKeown, from Noosa, where families of Olympic swimmers are gathered.

“But not during the race. I knew Kaylee had it in her (to win) but I was a bit nervous.

“Like all athletes, at this stage they have done the hard work. Now it was just up to her to do it.

“It was sheer joy when she won, but also a bit of relief. I was nervous for her last night. I didn’t sleep well.

Mum's joy as Kaylee McKeown wins Olympic gold
Kaylee McKeown celebrating at the Australia trials. Picture: Delly Carr, Swimming Australia

In demand

“Now I’m just hanging out to try and talk to her for a few seconds. I know she’ll have a lot of media commitments … and I’d like to see the race again.”

Kaylee McKeown’s formative swimming career was at Australian Crawl in Burpengary with junior development coach Jodie Morgan and head coach Chris Mooney.

She is now at USC Spartans on the Sunshine Coast, still under the wing of Mooney, who is also in Tokyo with the Australia swimming team.

Mrs McKeown said she didn’t analyse her daughter’s races. “I’m not a coach,” she said, “I leave that to Mooney. I just go ‘do it girl’!”

'Relax after this'

With one gold medal in the bag, Mrs McKeown said the pressure may ease a bit on her daughter heading into Thursday’s 200m Backstroke heats and the following relays.

“She may be able to relax after this,” she said.

Tributes are flowing for Kaylee McKeown, including words of praise from Moreton Bay Region Mayor Peter Flannery.

“I hope Kaylee’s superstar effort inspires local kids to start training now, so we can cheer for them in person at our very own Olympics and Paralympics here in 2032,” he said.

Homegrown legend

“There’s nothing better than cheering on the Aussies at the Olympics and Paralympics and it’s even sweeter when it’s a homegrown legend like Kaylee McKeown.

“She showed all her grit and determination to pull ahead within the last 25m in what will be remembered as a classic Olympic moment for our country.

“Kaylee now joins her sister Taylor as an Olympic medalist and bumps Moreton Bay’s tally haul up, which we’re all so proud of.

“The Sunshine Coast might want to claim the McKeown sisters, they’re 100 per cent Moreton Bay locals being born in Redcliffe, schooled in Caboolture and learned how to swim in Burpengary.

'So proud of you'

“Go Australia and go Moreton Bay - these are the kinds of magic moments I hope to see play out at our very own Olympic and Paralympic venue in Petrie in 2032.”

There were more on the Facebook page of Pacific Lutheran College, Caloundra, where McKeown graduated in 2018 and classes stopped today to watch the Olymic final.

“What an amazing final! What an inspiration to the student, planting the seed for 2032,” Tracy Edmonds said.

“Yay Kaylee, so proud of you,” posted Jasmin Querl Steven. 

Fran Brewster said: "Wow what an amazing woman and inspiring athlete! Hardwork and commitment does pay off."

Miriam Grey added: "Such an inspirational swim by Kaylee! So happy you all watched her win the gold medal together! What a champ she is!"

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