ADELAIDE (Reuters) -Australia’s young guns are threatening to make a serious splash at next month’s Olympic Games with teenager Kaylee McKeown proving herself the best in the world on a thrilling, record breaking day two of Australia’s swim-offs.
In the midst of great emotion, McKeown seemed to be the calmest person around as she booked her ticket to Tokyo at the South Australia Aquatic Centre by smashing the women’s 100m backstroke world record in 57.45 seconds.
Aged just 19, she said the death of her father in 2020 drives her forward daily.
“With COVID and the passing of my dad in August last year, it’s been a huge build up to these trials and I have turned it into a bit of hunger and motivation,” she said.
“I know that every day I wake up it’s a privilege to be on this earth and walk and talk, so to do that tonight was not only for me but my family and team.”
Her coach Chris Mooney had known the world record was attainable.
“He said to me before warm up, 'You know buddy, I believe in you' and I think I knew and he knew, it was go time. He knew something special was about to happen,” McKeown said.
An emotional Emily Seebohm, 29, who will accompany McKeown to Tokyo for what will be her fourth Olympics after finishing second, said it was one of the toughest races ever at the trials.
Later, 20-year-old Ariarne Titmus, who is widely being touted as one of Australia’s great hopes, swam the second fastest women’s 400m freestyle ever to break the Commonwealth record in 3:56.90.
"I honestly didn’t think I could go that fast. It just goes to show the adrenaline, the pressure and what it brings,” she said. And there was a warning for the American favourite Katie Ledecky.
“She is not going to have it all her own way,” Titmus said.
The day’s heavyweight line-up was saved for the last race, the men’s 200m freestyle. Local favourite and 100m Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers qualified first in a personal best of 1:45.48.
“I love racing against my mates and in front of my home crowd,” Chalmers said.
Elijah Winnington will contest the second 200m slot in Tokyo while Olympic 400m freestyle champion Mack Horton finished last.
Mitch Larkin won the men's 100m backstroke, matching the Olympic qualifying time of 53.40 seconds. Nineteen-year-old Chelsea Hodges won the women’s 100m breaststroke to qualify for Tokyo.
(Reporting by Richard Evans; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)