Brave Kaylee McKeown has a tattoo on her foot that says “I’ll always be with you” in honor of her father who died of cancer last year, and she will be inspired by it in the Tokyo swimming pool.
The 20-year-old sensation, who has burst onto the scene to be one of Australia’s finest multiple gold prospects, sees it every time she gets up for the start of her back.
“I just happen to see the ‘being with you’ so it’s kind of cool to see that because I know he will be with me and it’s just very precious,” she said.
One of the youngest members of the Australian swim team, McKeown holds the only new world record in the Australian or American trials in Japan, touching in 57.45 seconds to crush Regan Smith’s 100m backstroke mark.
She also has the fastest times of the year in the 200m backstroke and the 200m individual medley, both world records within her grasp and the relays offering even more gold medal possibilities.
The emotions of seeing his father Sholto die in August of last year after a two-year battle with brain cancer at just 53 years old still run high for McKeown.
A Queenslander who lives on Australia’s Sunshine Coast, she said the one-year postponement of the pandemic-affected Games was a blessing in disguise, given her father’s battle.
“We are a very optimistic family and we took each day as it came, through chemo and radiation therapy. It happened around this time last year and things started to really decline, ”she said.
“It was hard for me being a young adult to see my dad really struggle.
“But that was additional motivation. Every day seeing him in his hospital bed reminded me of how lucky I am to be healthy and alive.
“So for me personally, I never take a day for granted again because I know he would be so disappointed if I got into training and was like, ‘I’m not going to try’. “
– Really happy –
McKeown, whose older sister Taylor was a silver medalist in the relay in Rio but narrowly missed the selection for Tokyo, added that making her father proud was a priority for her as she embarked on her first campaign Olympic.
“My dad is in many ways my great inspiration now,” she said. “I use it in the last 50 of my races like ‘come on daddy, help me cross the line’, because I know it’s there. “
Coached by Chris Mooney, McKeown made her international debut at the age of 15 after qualifying for the 2017 world championships.
# photo1Although narrowly missing a medal, the rising star finished fourth and set a new junior world record, then won silver in the 200 backstroke at the world championships two years later, and has showed massive improvements since then.
Smith, 19, will be a key threat in Tokyo in the 100m backstroke as she tries to regain her world record.
“We have a great relationship. We don’t know each other very well, but I always text her congratulations, ”Smith said after making sure she would attend her pet event in Japan.
“I was really genuinely happy for her (when she broke the world record), then it inspired me because I had a difficult year”,
But in a major upheaval, Smith failed to qualify for the 200 backstroke despite being the world record holder.
Instead, Rhyan White and Phoebe Bacon will be tasked with trying to stop McKeown, who has swam much faster than the two this year.
His fellow Americans Madisyn Cox and Alex Walsh stand out as his main threats in the medley.
© 2021 AFP