McKeown ready for 'fast, red hot' races at Tokyo Olympics

Published 1:00pm 15 July 2021

McKeown ready for 'fast, red hot' races at Tokyo Olympics
Words by Nick Crockford

Redcliffe-born Kaylee McKeown is one of Australia’s biggest hopes to land gold in the Olympic swimming pool this month.

The 20-year-old, who was with Australian Crawl in Burpengary, hit the headlines when smashing the world 100m backstroke record at the recent Australian trials.

She will now swim the 100m and 200m backstroke in Tokyo – and is in the 200m Individual Medley (IM) but, at the time of publication, was not confirmed for the latter.

If McKeown enters and makes the final of all three events, at her first Olympic Games, she will race for seven consecutive days (July 25-31).

'Very fast'

“It was always the stepping stone and plan to get onto the Olympic team,” said McKeown, who lived and went to primary school in Caboolture.

“There was a bit of nerves, but also excitement at being on my first Olympic team. It should be really interesting - the 100m backstroke field and the 200m will be red hot.

“I don’t go into a meet thinking about times. I’m a process-oriented person. All I can say is … it is going to be a very fast final and even the semis.”

Alongside McKeown in Japan will be Chris Mooney, her current coach at USC Spartans in Sippy Downs, who was also head coach when both were at Burpengary.

McKeown ready for 'fast, red hot' races at Tokyo Olympics
Coach Chris Mooney congraulates Kaylee McKeown at the Australian trials.

Mooney is part of the Australian Olympic coaching team and in Cairns at a pre-Games staging camp, where a surprise 20th birthday party was held for McKeown on Monday.

“We came up here to chase some warm weather in preparation for Tokyo,” said Mooney, “we are safe here and we know the facilities are great.

“We are (currently) going back over those testing sets and looking for those little one per centers. She’s (McKeown) testing really well, so we are quietly excited.”

Among many watching on the Sunshine Coast will be Jodie Morgan, McKeown’s junior development coach at Australian Crawl now in the same role at Flinders Aquatic Academy in Buderim.

'Naturally gifted'

Morgan said McKeown is “naturally gifted”. “You could tell at a young age Kaylee was going to be very, very good,” said Morgan.

“I still picture her as that little girl who was always happy and always adjusted well to changes. She was actually good at all sports.

“I remember Kaylee wanting to do breaststroke, like her big sister (Taylor), but I told her (at that stage) it was going to be backstroke.”

Now, however, McKeown does all four strokes in the 200m IM and clocked the fastest time in the world for two years at the Australian trials last month!

McKeown ready for 'fast, red hot' races at Tokyo Olympics
Redcliffe-born Kaylee McKeown. Picture Delly Carr Swimming Australia

“It’s wonderful when you see someone go through the whole (development) process, doing all that work and still going," said Morgan.

“I get goosebumps when I watch. Tears flow when you see all the hard work come together.”

When following the recent Australian trials on television, Morgan said she was "actually commentating on the races, telling Kaylee what to do!”

'Watching for sure!'

Also watching avidly will be staff and students at St Paul’s Lutheran Primary School in Caboolture.

“We are so proud of our past student Kaylee McKeown,” the school posted on Facebook, “we can’t wait to see you representing Australia at the Olympics!

“That’s a race we will be watching for sure!”

McKeown’s formative career also included spells at Grace Swimming Rothwell and John Wallace Swim School in Caloundra, before going to USC Spartans.

McKeown ready for 'fast, red hot' races at Tokyo Olympics
Kaylee McKeown at the Australian Olympic Trials in Adelaide last month. Picture Delly Carr Swimming Australia

She made her debut for the Australian Dolphins swimming team in 2015, alongside her sister Taylor, who won silver in the 4x100m medley relay team at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Kaylee McKeown won gold (50m backstroke), silver (100m backstroke and 4x100m medley relay) and bronze (200m backstroke) at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.

There followed silver at the 2019 World Championships in the 200m backstroke and 4x100m medley relay.

This year McKeown broke three national records (50m, 100m, 200m backstroke) at the Sydney Open - and lowered the world 100m backstroke record to 57.45 seconds at the Olympic trials.

Kaylee McKeown (possible) Olympic schedule:

(Qld times listed. Tokyo is one hour behind)

July 25

100m Backstroke heats from 8.02pm

July 26

100m Backstroke semi-finals from 12.53pm

200m Individual Medley heats from 8.56pm

July 27

100m Backstroke final at 11.51am

200m Individual Medley semi-finals from 12.58pm

July 28

200m Individual Medley final 12.45pm

July 29

200m Backstroke heats from 9.08pm

July 30

200m Backstroke semi-finals from 12.35pm

July 31

200m Backstroke final 11.37pm

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