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Olympic swimming champion Kaylee McKeown has revealed she was battling a painful shoulder injury as she powered her way to three gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics.
The 20-year-old win the 100m and 200m backstroke at the Tokyo Games, as well as being a member of Australia's gold medal winning medley relay team.
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Not only did she have to overcome the world's best competition in order to do so, but she had to battle the added challenge of a torn labrum in her left shoulder, an injury she says was sustained at the team's training camp in Cairns just prior to plying to Japan.
Given practically no time to recover from the injury, McKeown simply had to put up with the pain as she gave it her all in the pool.
Speaking to reporters after completing quarantine upon her return to Queensland, McKeown said she simply had no choice but to grin and bear it.
In a testament to her toughness, McKeown said the injured shoulder hadn't affected her too badly.
“I tore the labrum in my left shoulder … we’ve come to the conclusion that I did it here in Cairns and just put up with the pain,” McKeown said of her Olympic debut.
“Honestly it didn’t affect my Olympics at all, I was in quite a bit of pain, especially the last two days heading into the 200m backstroke and the relay but there wasn’t anything I could do to make it better, so there was no point complaining about it.”
Recovering from the injury will become her key focus ahead of a loaded 2022 schedule which will include both the world championships and Commonwealth Games.
McKeown is limited to just kick sets in the pool for now as she recovers from the torn labrum, set to sit out the upcoming Queensland state championships.
The 20-year-old opted against having surgery to repair her damaged shoulder after consulting with swimming officials and doctors.
“Surgery was an option that was put on the table but I’ve had the best of the best tell me that’s not the best option to go with because it won’t be the best thing with my stroke,” McKeown said.
“So it’s a matter of getting it strong again and getting it ready to go.”
Devastating family tragedy behind Kaylee McKeown triumph
McKeown won the hearts and minds of fans all around Australia with her swim for the ages to claim gold in the women's 100m backstroke at the Tokyo Olympics.
Sadly for the 20-year-old, her late father Sholto was unable to witness his daughter achieve her greatest sporting dream.
McKeown's father died from brain cancer in August last year, but like fans all across Australia, he would have been immensely proud of Australia's newest gold medallist, who set a new Olympic record to clinch gold against a star-studded field.
The Aussie took gold from Canada's Kylie Masse and American Regan Smith with a stunning time of 57.47 seconds.
Emily Seebohm capped off a memorable race for the Aussies after finishing in fifth place.
The heartbreaking reality for McKeown is that if Tokyo's Games not been postponed a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, her father would have been able to witness the 20-year-old's greatest triumph.
Sholto's death has given McKeown perspective beyond her 20 years.
"It's not necessarily what I've been through," McKeown said.
"Everyone has had a journey of their own.
"It's having that really tough mindset and I wouldn't have had it any other way.
"I don't think I'd be here today with all that's happened."
McKeown revealed after her world record display at the Aussie swim trials in June that the memory of her father is a powerful motivating force.
"I use it every day that I wake up," McKeown said at the June trials after breaking down in tears in the pool.
"I know it's a privilege to be on this earth and walk and talk."
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