Devastating tragedy behind Aussie teen's world record swim

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·Sports Reporter
·3-min read
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Kaylee McKeown was in tears after setting a new world record in the 100m backstroke at the Australian Olympic Trials on Sunday. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)
Kaylee McKeown was in tears after setting a new world record in the 100m backstroke at the Australian Olympic Trials on Sunday. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

As she prepared for the start of what was to be a record-breaking swim, teenager Kaylee McKeown's mind was on more than the task ahead of her.

The 19-year-old clocked 57.45 seconds in Sunday night's final of the women's 100m backstroke at the South Australian Aquatic Centre - a new world record.

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It was a full tenth of a second faster than the previous record, a 57.57 set by American Regan Smith in 2019.

Sunday night's final held an extra significance for McKeown, with her late father Sholto's death 10 months ago to the day of the Australian Championships.

An emotional McKeown said after the race her father's memory was with her.

“I honestly can’t believe it,” the Queenslander said.

“I just wanted to come in tonight and blow out the cobwebs and I did that.

“It’s been a huge year for me and my family. I don’t mean to get emotional but it’s been 10 months since my dad passed today.

"With that behind me and doing that tonight I think he would be very proud.”

Kaylee McKeown's father passed away 10 months to the day before she set a new world record at the Australian Olympic trials. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)
Kaylee McKeown's father passed away 10 months to the day before she set a new world record at the Australian Olympic trials. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

The delayed 2020 Olympics and the training challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic made the stunning performance all the more sweet.

"With COVID and the passing of my Dad in August last year, it has been a huge, huge build-up to these trials," McKeown said.

"And I have turned it into a bit of a hunger and motivation ... I use it every day that I wake up, I know it's a privilege to be on this earth and walk and talk.

"So to get up and do that tonight is not really for me but my family."

Stunning results at Australian Olympic swimming trials

For veteran Emily Seebohm, motivation stemmed from being told she was too fat and too old to make another Olympic team.

The backstrokers - and Ariarne Titmus after swimming the second-fastest women's 400m freestyle ever - were in tears for different reasons on Sunday night.

Seebohm was written off in 2019 when failing to make Australia's team for the world championships.

"A lot of people said that I wasn't going to do it - I was too old, I needed to lose weight, I needed to look different," an emotional Seebohm said.

"I just stuck to my guns."

Reigning world 400m freestyle champion Titmus was also in tears - of relief at making her first Olympic team.

Emily Seebohm celebrated after earning her spot in her fourth Olympic Games. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)
Emily Seebohm celebrated after earning her spot in her fourth Olympic Games. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Titmus shrugged off a shoulder ailment to get within a whisker of the world record of America's five-time Olympic gold medallist Katie Ledecky.

Titmus clocked three minutes 56.90 seconds, just 0.44 seconds off Ledecky's record.

"I honestly didn't think I could go that fast," Titmus said.

In the men's 200m freestyle final, reigning 100m Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers triumphed with Mack Horton trailing into sixth.

After missing selection on Saturday night to defend his 400m freestyle Olympic title, Horton's Tokyo Games will be solely as a member of the 4x200m freestyle relay team.

Mitch Larkin won the men's 100m backstroke in 53.40 - the exact Olympic qualifying time - and in the women's 100m breaststroke, winner Chelsea Hodges and second-placed Jessica Hansen both earnt Olympic berths.

With AAP

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