After blowing the candles out on her teenage years, Australian swim sensation Kaylee McKeown got straight back into her preparations to hopefully blow the opposition out of the water at the Tokyo Olympics.
McKeown celebrated her 20th birthday on Monday at the Australian swim team’s training camp in Cairns but kept the festivities short because she’s got her eyes on a bigger prize.
Ranked No. 1 in the world in 100m backstroke, 200m backstroke and 200m individual medley, McKeown will head to Japan with the added weight of being among the medal favourites but with her feet still planted on the ground.
Like Wimbledon champion Ash Barty, McKeown is surrounded by people who keep her level headed by focusing on hard work and never getting ahead of themselves.
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“We’re definitely aware of the pressures and the expectations but we’ve always been a team that’s focused on process,” McKeown’s coach Chris Mooney said.
“So we’ll focus on skills. We’ll focus on the work that we’ve done over the last five years, let alone the last five weeks.
“And we’ll have a race plan and we’ll stick to that race plan and hopefully that result will be favourable.”
Those that know McKeown best are confident that her unassuming manner has left her well equipped to handle the suffocating pressure of the Olympics.
There’s no question she has the speed and ability to do well – having broken the 100m backstroke world record at last month’s Australian trials – but with no crowds allowed and the finals switched from their traditional evening timeslots to mid morning, the difference between winning and losing could come down to what takes place in swimmers’ heads rather than their bodies.
“The fact that the Olympics are on, to me, gives hope to the world and hope to other athletes that have sweated and slogged it out and worked their tails off and made all those sacrifices to be at the Olympics,” Mooney said.
“They’re going to put on a spectacle and it’s going to look fantastic on television.
“I believe it’ll be probably more of a match race in regards to the finals, not always being the fastest, but it’ll definitely be that person that can get to the wall in front of the other seven people in that race.
“I think it’ll just be good old fashioned racing rather than times.”
Originally published as Why Aussie swim sensation’s tipped for Tokyo glory