Emma McKeon and Brendon Smith Book First Tickets To Tokyo With Record Breaking Start To Aussie Trials

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WHAT A SCREAMER: Nunawading's Brendon Smith escaped lockdown to make the Tokyo Olympics. Photo Courtesy Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Emma McKeon (Griffith University, QLD) and Brendon Smith (Nunawading, VIC)) set the SA Aquatic and Leisure Centre alight – booking their tickets to Tokyo in Australian record times in a sizzling start to the Australian Olympic Trials in Adelaide.

While Se-Bom Lee (Carlile, NSW) celebrated his 20th birthday with one of the bravest swims of the year to join them on the plane after recovering from a serious shoulder injury.

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FIRST WAVE: Emma McKeon books the first seat on he Tokyo train with an Australian record swim in the 100m butterfly. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia)

McKeon (Griffith University, QLD) was on world record pace for the first 90 metres of the 100m butterfly in the first event of the meet before touching the wall in a new Australian record time of 55.93 – the fourth fastest time in history.

The 27-year-old was off the blocks like a rocket 25.96 and as she charged down the second lap touching the virtual red world record line across the pool, until Sarah Sjostrom’s time of 55.48 got the better of her by 0.45.

The former Wollongong girl and the daughter of 1980 and 1984 Olympian Ron McKeon joins her dad and brother David McKeon (2012 and 2016) as a two-time Olympian.

“It feels really good – it’s really nice to qualify in the first event on the first night and get that done and settle into the rest of the week. It’s significantly faster than what I’ve been going for the last four years,” a beaming McKeon said after the race.

“I definitely thought I was due for a good one. I have been putting a lot of hard work in with my coach Michael Bohl. I definitely have a lot of faith in him and if he tells me I’m due for a good one and he believes I’m due for a good one I have a lot more belief in myself.

“It gives you a lot of confidence in our last race before Tokyo – good to get it done. I feel really good and really strong and I know I’ve put a lot of work in.

“Having that extra year really helped as well. I feel a lot stronger and a lot more confidence in my ability compared to March last year. I was definitely ready and well prepared if the Olympics were run last year so having that extra year even got me more ready to go.”

McKeon’s Rio team mate, WA’s Brianna Throssell (UWA West Coast) missed the Olympic QT by just 0.01 – clocking 57.11 with rising star 20-year-old Alexandria Perkins (USC Spartans) third in a personal best time of 58.61.

Smith powered his way not only past the Olympic QT of 4:15.24 but also past Thomas Fraser-Holmes’ 2013 Australian record with his time of 4:10.04 and into the top eight in the world this year, while Lee has overcome a serious shoulder tear to also swim under the QT with a personal best of 4:14.16 – dedicating his race to his coach Misha Payne, who has weaved his magic to prepare Lee for the best swim of his life.

Smith (Nunawading, VIC; Coach: Wayne Lawes) kick -tarted his Tokyo Olympic bid in earnest on the Gold Coast in April in a time just outside the QT

He has certainly forged a different pathway to Olympic selection, best utilising his swimming prowess in Surf Lifesaving and also the only Australian male (with Emily Seebohm) to contest last year’s International Swimming League in Budapest where he swam with the New York Breakers.

Smith was also a member of the Australian Swim Team at the 2019 World Uni Games that won bronze in the 4x200m freestyle relay in Naples.

In Adelaide two years ago, an 18-year-old Smith was hot on the tail of dual Olympian Larkin, pushing him right to the wall, trailing by only 0.29 of a second. Smith also took home a silver medal in October last year at the Australian Short Course Championships in the 400m freestyle to further his prospects.

And the Half Moon Bay lifesaver was the only Victorian named in the 2018 Australian Youth Surf Team for the World Life Saving Championships in Adelaide, his feats rewarded with a Tier Three Scholarship within the Sport Australia Hall of Fame Scholarship & Mentoring Program.

Smith said: “Everything went right and I had a great race….I executed it really well after my fastest heat swim….” befoire talking about his escape from Melbourne – and taking a flight that saved his Olympic dream.

“Victoria (and COVID) was getting worse and worse by the day and we knew we had to do something and we were just waiting for Swimming Australia to make the call and they did.

“They got us out and it was the right decision. Nunawading Swimming Club was awesome making that transition easier and my heart goes out to all the Melbourne-ites – My older sister Nerice and my dad couldn’t make it – I’m sad but I know they are watching at home.

“We trained on the Wednesday morning before we left and coach Wayne Lawes said we’ve got to go – we may be leaving as soon as today and by 11 or 12 o’clcok he said here’s your flight details we are out of here – and we didn’t know where we were going to go. But we decided the gold coach was the best destination for us. But I’m super happy and I can’t believe it.

“And it’s great to have the Nunawading crew here and thankful for all the people who have made this journey with me. And I know there are a lot of them that are going to do amazing swims. I didn’t realise I had even broken the Australian record until I got out of the water – I just saw 4:10 and thought I’m under the qualifying time – but that’s awesome.”

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SMASHED IT…..Brendon Smith after hitting the wall. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia)

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SCREAMER: Yeah baby….Photo Courtesy Delly Carr (Swimming Australia)BRENDON SMITH 3

OMG: “What have I just done…?” Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia)

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YOU’RE GOING TO TOKYO: Brendon Smith (Nunawading) congratulated by his team mate Elliott Rogerson who was fifth in the 400m IM final. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia)