Australia’s Kaylee McKeown says the death of her father 10 months ago inspired her to break the 100m backstroke world record. The 19-year-old set a world benchmark at Australia’s Olympic trials in Adelaide on Sunday night.
McKeown clocked 57.45 seconds in the 100m backstroke final, bettering the previous world record of 57.57 set by American Regan Smith in 2019. Her father Sholto died in August last year after a two-year battle with brain cancer. He was 53.
“With Covid and the passing of my Dad in August last year, it has been a huge, huge build-up to these trials,” she said. “And I have turned it into a bit of a hunger and motivation behind me.
“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.”
McKeown waved to her mother Sharon, who was in the grandstand at the South Australian Aquatic Centre to witness her daughter’s feat.
“I knew she was up in the crowd, I don’t like looking up before I walk out because I get a bit nervous but … I couldn’t help,” she said.
McKeown last month set a then Commonwealth and Australian record of 57.63. But it wasn’t until just before warm-up on Sunday night that her coach Chris Mooney signalled the world record was a target.
“He did say something to me before I got in for warm-up, it was like ‘you know buddy, I believe in you’,” she said. “I knew and he knew at that time, that it was go time.
“He knew something special was about to happen. I may not have known it but I was just trying to keep the nerves down as much as I could.
“I wouldn’t say it was a goal, I think I am more of a process-oriented person than times, and it just so happens that I nailed all those little pinpoints that I am going for.”
McKeown’s record sets up a highly anticipated showdown with American star Smith at next month’s Tokyo Olympics. “It’s just whoever comes up on the day, you never know what can happen in five, six weeks time,” she said.
Veteran Emily Seebohm finished second behind McKeown, securing a swim at her fourth Olympics.