In the midst of Australia's incredible night at the world swimming championships on Sunday, there was drama for Kaylee McKeown as the Olympic hero copped a controversial disqualification. McKeown was disqualified for a stroke violation in the 200m individual medley semi-finals, with judges pinging her for an illegal move from the backstroke to breaststroke legs.
McKeown looked shocked when the disqualification was flashed up on the scoreboard, with Great Britain’s Katie Shannahan and Sara Franceshchi of Italy also rubbed out. The Olympic silver medallist in the event, McKeown was found to have rotated fully onto her side too early during the end of the backstroke leg.
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According to new World Aquatics regulations, swimmers must still be on their back when touching the wall, however McKeown had already started rotating. "This is because of the new technicality that has come in," Aussie legend Ian Thorpe said in commentary for Channel 9. "When we go back to Kaylee McKeown I will be looking at her backstroke to breaststroke turn."
The Aussie was shaping as a medal contender in the event, with her entry time of 2:07.19 over a second faster than the 2:08.57 time she swam to take silver at the world championships last year. Describing the DQ as "completely unfair", McKeown later said: "I had a bit of a cry. A bit of an emotional rollercoaster but it's sport and it's what happens in sport.
"Unfortunately some people just get the bad hand and I got dealt that bad hand. It's just a matter of trying to flip it into a positive and just give the big 'f u' kind of thing. We have footage and other angles that say otherwise to what the officials saw."
On the plus side, the medley isn't McKeown's pet event and she's still a shot at gold in the 100m backstroke - where she holds the world record. Swimming fans were also left stunned by McKeown's disqualification.
What is the exact rule? Struggling to understand where she differs? In the men’s 400im final just now they all turned into their stomach prior…
— AvSteR (@AviOrski) July 23, 2023
Yeah, it's harsh but it's the right call.
Sucks because I don't think Kaylee got any advantage from it either.
— Lachlan McKirdy (@LMcKirdy7) July 23, 2023
Devo for her. 😭😭😭
— MSSTLOVER2023 (@21Tnslover) July 23, 2023
did not see that coming, the final lineup missing a big piece, but that's just how it is, opens up the door for someone else
— ~ (@sop18_) July 23, 2023
Kaylee Mckeown getting DQed is crazy
— Christopher Grunke (@Icanfly1266) July 23, 2023
Aussies win four gold medals, break two world records
Despite the disqualification it was a remarkable night for the Aussies, who won four gold medals and broke two world records. Young gun Sam Short kicked off the golden night by winning the men's 400m freestyle, before Ariarne Titmus did the double for Australia with a world record in the women's event.
Titmus reclaimed the world record she lost to Summer McIntosh earlier this year with a time of 3:55.38, becoming the first woman to swim under 3:56 in the event. It also marked the first time Australia has won the men's and women's 400m titles at a world championships.
Australia's 4x100m relay teams both won gold to cap off the night, with the women breaking their own world record from the 2021 Olympics. The women's team of Mollie O'Callaghan, Shayna Jack, Meg Harris and Emma McKeon clocked three minutes, 27.96 seconds, well inside the previous record of 3:29.69.
And in the next race, Jack Cartwright, Flynn Southam, Kai Taylor and Kyle Chalmers won in 3:10.16 ahead of Italy. "I sat there with goosebumps all night," Chalmers said. "(For) Ariarne to break a world record and then the (relay) girls break a world record, I don't think Australia could ask for a better night.
"I have been on world championships teams where we have probably struggled to win four medals for the whole competition, let alone four gold medals on the first night. Shorty (Sam Short) ... we have sat there for the last two weeks watching him dominate training and talk the big game. And for him to deliver was that spine-tingling moment."
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