Birthday Blowout On Hold For Australia’s Kaylee McKeown Who Dines Out On Pain In Countdown To Tokyo

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PENNY FOR THEIR THOUGHTS? Australia's Kaylee McKeown inundated with birthday well wishes shares a moment with coach Chris Mooney at the Tobruk Memorial Pool in Cairns. Photo Courtesy Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

There was no rest for the wicked – as they say, even on the 20th birthday for Kaylee McKeown in Cairns yesterday. Surrounded by her Tokyo Olympic teammates, Australia’s latest world-record holder was in the pain lane.

Australia’s newest backstroking star farewelled her teenage years unlike most other 19-year-old Aussie girls who may well have danced the night away at a local nightclub on the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef…sipping on a cocktail or two and watching the sunset.

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CORD STRENGTH: Kaylee McKeown knows she has to be at her best to race the best. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Maybe even the afternoon off training to take in a movie – but not this little duck, Australia’s latest wonder of the backstroking world.

It was business as usual at the Tobruk Memorial Pool, although there was a party planned all right – but with no bells and whistles.

An invitation written on the whiteboard outlining what coach Chris Mooney had in store for his his Tokyo training group, which also includes Gold Coast Olympic debutants, fellow backstroker Tristan Hollard (Southport Olympic) and breaststrokers Jenna Strauch (Miami) and Chelsea Hodges (Southport Olympic).

“Kaylee’s the birthday girl today…” said Mooney and with that sinister look on his face continued with “…and there’s a ‘pain party’ happening this afternoon (at the pool) which she is not aware of just yet…”

Mooney revealed he had been working on the development of some new 200m backstroke sets which McKeown attacked on her birthday with the same ferocity which has seen her take on the clock at every outing she has lined up in over the past 12 months – training sessions at the University of Sunshine Coast and competitions from Brisbane to Adelaide and the Gold Coast and back to Adelaide – re-writing the record books along the way – just rewards for her second to none work ethic.

And she took it all in her stride, knowing there will be time to celebrate post her Tokyo commitments which will see the now 20-year-old line up in the 100 and 200m backstroke, the 200 IM (at this stage) and the 4x100m medley relay.

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LOOK WHO’S IN THE HOOD: Birthday girl Kaylee McKeown shows off the pearly whites for Swimming Australia photographer Delly Carr.

“We came up here to chase the warm weather…it’s not the first time in rehearsing for Tokyo. We are safe here we know; the facilities are great – it is what we need. It’s been perfect….” said Mooney who gives this insight into a training regimen which has seen McKeown move as fluently as anyone has ever moved, as she sets herself for a Games like no other.

“We had a good lead into Trials and (since then) we have taken this opportunity to go back over those testing sets looking for those little extra one-percenters, “ said Mooney, as he and McKeown prepare to leave for Tokyo with the Dolphins this Saturday.

“And she has been testing really well and we are quietly excited.”

Mooney admitted there was “a lot of emotion” after her record-breaking efforts at Trials, saying….”We always have a few days off to neurally and mentally freshen up.

“We want to go back into that next training block with full stores of glycogen and also to be mentally refreshed and the rest of the first week was spent just building back up to those overloads of 85 percent.

“And then the business really started in the second (week) when we reached 95 percent capacity.

“By the end of that week we were still (at) 95 percent over load (adding in) testing and quality sessions that we prescribed.

“Week three which is the week we are in now…we are pushing a lot of envelopes and creating new ceilings and testing better than we’ve had in the past.”

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HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU KID: Coach Chris Mooney (pictured here with budding freestyle star Tommy Neill) is sure to have Kaylee McKeown on point in Tokyo Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

And on pressure and expectation, Mooney has a set formula.

“We are definitely aware of the pressures and expectations and we have always been a team and we work through our processes and that’s all we can control,” said Mooney.

“We are in control of the space we are around at the moment, we have surrounded ourselves with some amazing facilitators and staff.

“We are designing training sessions which increase capacities and that’s all we can control, so we’ll focus on skills, we’ll focus on the work we have done over the last five years let alone the last five weeks.

“We’ll have a race plan, we’ll stick to that race place and hopefully the result will be favorable…”

And on empty grandstands that await the Aussie Swim Team when they arrive at the newly constructed Tokyo Aquatics Centre in the Tatsumi-no-Mori Seaside Park.

“We don’t have a lot of crowds when we train 364 days of the year and we’re used to hitting the pool at 5.30 am with no one around apart from the people who are really invested in the sport,” said Mooney.

“The Olympics to me is a real show of hope; the fact that the Olympics are on gives hope to the world and hope to other athletes who have sweated and slogged it out, and made all those sacrifices to be there at the Olympics.

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DRESSED TO THRILL: Kaylee McKeown models the Australian Olympic Team’s official Speedo training suit in Cairns. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

“I think the spectacle is going to look fantastic on television. I know all the hard work that has gone in not just by the swimmers but all the staff from all the sports – they are going to put on a spectacle that is going to look fantastic on television…and we are going to get an opportunity to perform and that’s all we’ve ever wanted to do..is to get an opportunity to perform at the Olympics….

“All the other factors like having heats in the night time and I expect to see lot of fast swimming at night and I really do believe it will be more like match racing in the finals.

“Not always maybe being the fastest times but that person who gets (his or her) hand to the wall first in front of those other seven people …I think it’s going to be a good old fashioned swimming race…”

And the benefit for Mooney is the fact that he cut his coaching teeth under legendary coach Denis Cotterell at Miami on the Gold Coast, as he master minded Grant Hackett’s Olympic campaigns that netted him back-to-back Olympic golds over 1500m freestyle in Sydney and Athens.

‘I remember Denis saying to Hacky..there are two types of hunger – the first one is the hunger to get to the top and the second is the hunger to stay there….and she knows she has to be at her best to compete with the best,” says Mooney.

“And at the moment she is dining out on that hunger.”

BIRTHDAY BALLOONS: And to set the record straight, there was a little bit of fanfare after Kaylee returned to the team hub, decorated with birthday balloons in the Dolphins team room and there was a ‘mini something’ with a candle on it!”

Kaylee McKeown

PLUNGE POOL: Backstroking’s best Kaylee McKeown takes the plunge at the Tobruk Memorial Pool in Cairns. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

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