Kaylee McKeown smacks down Cate Campbell over 'sore loser' swipe at US swimming

Kaylee McKeown says Cate Campbell doesn't speak for the rest of the Dolphins after an extraordinary swipe at the US team.

Kaylee McKeown and Cate Campbell.
Kaylee McKeown has sought to distance the rest of the Australian Dolphins from some pointed trash talk made by Olympic champion Cate Campbell. Pictures: Getty Images

Australian swimming star Kaylee McKeown has sought to distance the Dolphins from Cate Campbell, after the Olympic champion labelled the US team 'sore losers' in the wake of the world championships in Japan. Campbell took a pot-shot at the Americans after broadcasters switched how the medal tally was presented, despite the Dolphins record-equalling tally of 13 gold medals far eclipsing their rivals' total of seven.

The rivalry in the pool between the Aussies and Americans has always been fierce, but McKeown was less than impressed after Campbell essentially poured fuel on the fire during an appearance on Channel 9's Today Show. Campbell took aim at the American team's use of a cowbell to cheer on their teammates, as well as declaring that she was thrilled not to have heard the 'Star Spangled Banner' play on day one of the championships.

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Campbell's comments went down poorly in the US, with American champion Lily King labelling Australia 'uptight' as a result, and commentators declaring her comments were 'fuel' for the Americans ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics. “I mean Australia coming out on top of the world is one thing, but it is just so much sweeter beating America,” Campbell said. “The first night of competition, we did not have to hear ‘Star Spangled Banner’ ring out through the stadium.

"I cannot tell you how happy that made me. If I hear that song again it will be too soon. Bring on Paris. That’s all I have to say to the US. Stop being sore losers.”

American broadcasters were mocked during the meet after Australia took an insurmountable lead in the gold medal tally, switching their medal count to make the leaders based on the overall number of medals won, rather than on gold medals. However fellow Olympic champion McKeown said that while the rivalry had always been fierce, she would have preferred Campbell, who didn't compete in Fukuoka, to stay out of it.

“The rivalry between Swimming Australia and the American team has been like that for decades, it is not anything new," McKeown told the Herald Sun. “In saying that though, I think there is a right and wrong way to say things and Cate is entitled to her opinion. But I just want the US to know that she is not speaking on behalf of the whole Australian team.

“She wasn’t in Japan and so for her to make those comments, it kind of makes us athletes, not look bad, but we don’t think what she said...We weren’t too impressed that she had her two cents to put in.”

McKeown and Campbell won a gold medal together as part of Australia's 4x100m medley relay team at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

Kaylee McKeown, Chelsea Hodges, Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell at the 2021 Olympics.
Kaylee McKeown, Chelsea Hodges, Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell on the podium with their gold medals at the 2021 Olympics. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images) (Corbis via Getty Images)

Cate Campbell's trash talk inspires American swimmers

Needless to say, Campbell's comments went down like a lead balloon in the States. A clip of Campbell's remarks caught the attention of a number of US swimmers and fans, with backstroker King tweeting: “Sorry we aren’t so uptight we can’t cheer for our teammates as they walkout for events. See you in Paris.”

Olympic champion and NBC swimming pundit Rowdy Gaines wrote: “360 days. I can’t wait. The rivalry continues.” While Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated wrote: “Eighty seconds of training fuel for USA Swimming heading toward Paris in ‘24.”

Kaylee McKeown is pictured alongside French swimmer Leon Marchand.
Kaylee McKeown was named female swimmer of the meet at the World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan. (Photo by Pablo Morano/BSR Agency/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

American swimming commentator Kyle Sockwell welcomed the trash talk ahead of what should be a blockbuster Olympic showdown in Paris. “My overall thought is trash talk is completely OK,” he said.

“I think it’s a good thing for the sport. For some reason in swimming, we’ve decided to be the only sport an the planet that makes people hide their emotions in favour of being a good sport on camera.

“This is awesome. Lilly King is awesome. Cate Campbell is awesome. This is good for the sport. What this proves in my eyes is we’re leaving a lot on the table when it comes to marketability for the sport of swimming.”

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