Aussie Olympic favourite Kaylee McKeown in shock withdrawal

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·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
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Kaylee McKeown has pulled out of the 200m individual medley at the Tokyo Olympics, in order to concentrate on backstroke. (Photo by BRENTON EDWARDS/AFP via Getty Images)
Kaylee McKeown has pulled out of the 200m individual medley at the Tokyo Olympics, in order to concentrate on backstroke. (Photo by BRENTON EDWARDS/AFP via Getty Images)

Australian Olympic hopeful Kaylee McKeown has made the shock decision to withdraw from the 200m individual medley at the Tokyo Games.

McKeown launched herself into medal contention with a series of blistering performances leading up to the Games, including setting a new world record in the 100m backstroke at the Australian Olympic trials back in June.

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She also broke three Australian records in as many days during the Sydney Open in May, signalling her intentions for the Olympics.

But despite being the top ranked entrant in all of her individual events, McKeown announced on Thursday that she would be withdrawing from the medley to focus on her backstroke events, as well as her relay entries.

Australian head coach Rohan Taylor said concerns over her workload were the primary reason behind the decision.

“It’s a big call,” Taylor said.

“And I respect the decision. They’re going to focus on the backstrokes and the medley relay.”

McKeown smashed the 100m backstroke world record at the Olympic trials in Adelaide last month, beating the previous mark by more than one tenth of a second in a time of 57.45.

She was overcome with emotion after the race, which came exactly 10 months to the day since the tragic death of her father Sholto from brain cancer.

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“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.”

Emily Seebohm finished second to qualify for her fourth Olympics, becoming just the second Australian swimmer after Leisel Jones to achieve that feat.

Family tragedy behind Kaylee McKeown's record swim

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."

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

Kaylee McKeown set a new world record in the 100m backstroke ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)
Kaylee McKeown set a new world record in the 100m backstroke ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

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.

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.

With AAP

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