Devastating family tragedy behind Kaylee McKeown triumph

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Kaylee McKeown is pictured here on the podium in Tokyo with her gold medal.
Kaylee McKeown won gold after setting a new Olympic Record in the 100m backstroke. Pic: AAP

Kaylee McKeown has won the hearts and minds of fans all around Australia after producing a swim for the ages to claim gold in the women's 100m backstroke on Tuesday 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.

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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.

Kaylee McKeown is seen on the right with her late father Sholto.
Kaylee McKeown's father tragically died of brain cancer in August 2020. Pic: Getty/Facebook

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."

Kaylee McKeown's late father an inspiration

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."

McKeown entered Tuesday's final as world record holder but third-fastest qualifier behind Smith and Masse.

The Canadian and American led at the last turn only for McKeown to surge in the last 25 metres for a stunning victory.

"My legs we're definitely hurting a lot with 20 (metres) to go," she said.

"But I trained for that and knew I had a really good chance to be on the podium and come away with the position I have."

Pictured here, Kaylee McKeown reacts after claiming gold in the 100m backstroke.
Kaylee McKeown claimed gold in a new Olympic Record time in the women's 100m backstroke. Pic: Getty/Ch7

McKeown triumphed in 57.47 seconds, with Masse (57.72) taking silver and Smith (58.05) the bronze.

Australian veteran Seebohm, at her fourth Olympics, finished fifth in 58.45 and was delighted to share the moment with Australia's newest Olympic champion.

"To see Kaylee there, I want to say, it was effin' special," Seebohm said.

McKeown was herself at the centre of a hilarious R-rated blunder that brilliantly stole the spotlight off her incredible triumph.

While speaking to Nathan Templeton of Channel 7 after the race, McKeown was asked if she had a message for her family watching back home.

The 20-year-old accidentally blurted out "F*** yeah" on live TV before covering her mouth in shock.

with agencies

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