Olympics: Kaylee McKeown Dedicates 100 Back Olympic Gold to Inspirational Father; Regan Smith Snares Bronze

Jul 27, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Kaylee McKeown (AUS) after winning the women's 100m backstroke final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
THIS ONE'S FOR YOU DAD: Australia's Kaylee McKeown won Olympic gold with the inspiration of her late father Sholto. Photo: Photo Courtesy: Robert Hanashiro/USA Today Sports

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Olympics: Kaylee McKeown Dedicates 100 Back Olympic Gold to Father; Regan Smith Snares Bronze

Australia’s 20-year-old Kaylee McKeown created her own slice of swimming history in Tokyo today, becoming the country’s first ever female Olympic backstroke gold medallist in an emotionally charged 100-meter victory on Day Three at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre.

A gold medal she dedicated to her late father Sholto, her greatest supporter, who passed away last August after a long battle with brain cancer

Jul 27, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Kaylee McKeown (AUS), center, is congratulated by Kylie Masse (CAN)after placing first and second in the women's 100m backstroke final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

HUGS ALL ROUND: Kaylee McKeown the centre of attention with silver medallist Kyle Masse and team mate, 5th placed Emily Seebohm. Photo Courtesy: Robert Hanashiro/USA Today Sports

McKeown, who came into these Games as the reigning world record holder, called on her father’s inspiration to dig deep on the second lap to charge past Canada’s Kylie Masse and former world record holder, Regan Smith of the USA to collect the gold in a new Olympic record of 57.47 (28.20).

The experienced Masse – a two-time world champion and Rio bronze medalist in this event – led at the turn, with McKeown, the early leader, in third.

But in wasn’t long before her back-end speed and endurance kicked in and McKeown swam up and passed Masse and Smith and charged to the wall in the second fastest time in history, just 0.02 outside her own world mark.

Masse touched for silver in 57.72 (27.91), adding to her bronze from 2016 with the ever-present Smith taking bronze in 58.05 (28.24).

“My legs were definitely hurting in the last 20m … but I have trained for that and I knew I had a really strong back-end and a really good chance to be on the podium,” said McKeown, who has been nurtured by coach Chris Mooney with the USC Spartans Swim team on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. “I’m just thankful that I have come away with the position that I have.”

Jul 27, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Kaylee McKeown (AUS), right, is congratulated by Emily Seebohm (AUS) after winning the women's 100m backstroke final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

GOLDEN MOMENT: Kaylee McKeown and Emily Seebohm. Photo Courtesy: Robert Hanashiro/USA Today Sports

McKeown’s teammate and 2012 London silver medalist Emily Seebohm, swimming in her fourth Games, finished a brave fifth in 58.45 (28.58).

The event was one of the most-anticipated of the Games, due to the presence of three women with equal opportunities at gold. All three have held the world record at some point, Masse initially, then Smith and most recently McKeown from the Aussie Trials.

It is a special medal for many reasons, in fact the 200th Olympic won by an Australian woman.

McKeown swam with her father’s strength, and his inspiration tattooed on her foot: “I will always be with you,” and they raced together sharing the biggest moment of her life.

“Everybody has a journey of their own and it just so happens that mine has been a really tough one….but I wouldn’t have it any other way because I don’t think I’d be where I am today without all that has happened,” said McKeown today.

 

Jul 27, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Kaylee McKeown (AUS) celebrates her gold medal in the women's 100m backstroke final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

GOLDEN GIRL: Kaylee McKeown all smiles in Toyko today after her emotionally charged gold medal swim in the 100m backstroke. Photo Courtesy: Robert Hanashiro/USA Today Sports

 

The Kaylee McKeown story so far…..

The 19-year-old Sunshine Coaster (coach Chris Mooney) swims to honour the legacy left by her late father Sholto who died of brain cancer in August 2020.

She is in the zone every time she races – “Doing it for Dad” and has emerged as one of Australia’s “girls most likely” ever since her silver-medal-winning swim in the 200m backstroke at the 2019 World’s in Gwangju.

She has not looked back, re-writing all but two of backstroking’s “Olympic event records” over the 100 and 200m backstroke and breaking the world record for 200m backstroke short course.

On her pathway to Toyko and the Australian Trials, McKeown set up her gold medal swim with a continued assault landing her just 0.06 outside Regan Smith’s 100m long course WR with her 57.63 at the Sydney Open meet – the second fastest time in history and it came after her fourth fastest time ever swum over 200m (2:04.31) the day before, after which Regan Smith sent her Aussie rival a text message.

DID YOU KNOW? Australia has only won two medals in the Olympic 100m backstroke since it first appeared on the Games program in 1924. Both silvers – the first to “Bonnie” Mealing (1932) and the second to Emily Seebohm (London 2012). Mealing won herb silver behind controversial American Eleanor Holm in LA in 1932.

She had been a member of the 1928 team to Amsterdam at just 15 and four years later became one of a few select Australian women swimmers to win an Olympic medal in the pre-World War II era. The legendary all-round sportsmen, turned sports writer Reginald “Snowy” Baker, described Mealing’s style as being “effortless backstroke…never have the critics seen a swimmer with perfect balance, cleaner leg work or more scientific arm action, both in drive and recovery.”

The same could be said of Kaylee McKeown some 90-odd years later…

 

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Photo Courtesy:  Simone Castrovillari and Speedo

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