Taylor unleashes the Olympics

Published 5:00am 4 June 2024

Taylor unleashes the Olympics
Words by Nick Crockford

Taylor McKeown has come back to Moreton Bay – where she was born, grew up and started her international swimming career – to unleash the Olympics.

For an hour the former Australian star enthralled students at Southern Cross Catholic College, Woody Point, with tales of success, heartbreak, dreams and determination.

As part of Olympics Unleashed, Taylor, now a freediving instructor, took the audience on a rollercoaster ride of sporting highs and lows on the world stage.

How she missed qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics by 0.01 of a second, but two years later won Commonwealth gold and Pan Pacific bronze in the 200m breaststroke.

How she finished fifth in the Olympic 200m breaststroke final at Rio 2016, despite being the fastest qualifier, but picked herself up to win silver with Emily Seebohm, Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell in the 4x100m relay.

Taylor also says Paris 2024 may be a “once-in-a-lifetime” Games for our swim team, with younger sister Kaylee, also born and raised in Moreton Bay, a key figure.

More pictures - click through

The 29-year-old is visiting schools in South-East Queensland and beyond with the Australian Olympic Committee’s free Olympics Unleashed educational program.

Olympians and aspiring Olympians are delivering personalised messages from their careers to help inspire and motivate students to do their personal best.

“For me it’s about resilience, overcoming obstacles and continuing to push through, doing your best and enjoying the journey,” Redcliffe-born Taylor said.

“Dreaming big and having things you can tick off along the way to achieving those goals is such a beautiful way to conduct yourself in life.

Taylor, who lived in Caboolture and went to St Paul’s Lutheran Primary School and Grace Lutheran College, has been as far as Charleville with Olympics Unleashed.

“It's totally free for the school,” the former member of Australian Crawl, Burpengary, said, “it’s an hour where students can sit back and think about their dreams and achieving them.

“When I see them locking eyes with me for an extended period of time, it makes me feel really good and hopefully those messages are getting through.”

The Paris Olympic countdown is gathering pace with the Australian swimming trials being held next week (June 10-15) in Brisbane.

Kaylee McKeown, a World and Olympic champion with the 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke world records, is one of our biggest medal hopes.

“Going by the way we have swum in the last two years, we probably have the biggest collection of world record holders Australian has ever seen,” Taylor said.

“Most are 25 years and younger, and all in their prime. This truly is a once-in-a-lifetime swimming team.

Taylor unleashes the Olympics
A young Taylor McKeown, left, with her swimming idol Leisel Jones, who also lived, grew up and trained in Moreton Bay.

“Even if they don’t perform at their best, this could still be better than any Olympics we’ve had before. It’s really, really special.”

Taylor's 10-year international career ended in 2022, but she would “love to still be competing”. “That was the best part of the training, that competitive outlet,” she says.

“I don’t miss the nervous feelings about racing. I don’t miss the stress, but I do miss being with the Australian team, competing with my sister, travelling the world … and the amazing perks.”

At the Rio Games in 2016, Taylor met tennis legend Rafael Nadal and took a picture with him.

She also sat with US swimming great Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time with 28 medals, on a bus back to the athlete's village.

Taylor unleashes the Olympics
Taylor McKeown during her 10-year international swimming career

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