EXCLUSIVE: Australia’s Tokyo Golden Girl Emma McKeon Escapes COVID Lockdown; Ready To Roar For London in The ISL

Emma McKeon wave 2
WAVE SET AND MATCH: Emma McKeon's seven Tokyo medals made her the most celebrated female athlete of the Games. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

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Australia’s Tokyo Golden Girl Emma McKeon Escapes COVID Lockdown and Ready To Roar For London in The ISL

Australian golden girl Emma McKeon, the most successful female athlete of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, will escape a strict Covid lockdown in NSW to rekindle her International Swimming League (ISL) career with the London Roar.

Emma McKeon Photo Simone Castrovillari 6

BACK IN THE POOL: Emma McKeon leaves for Naples on Saturday for the ISL. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

McKeon, who has been in quarantine and lockdown in Australia for a month since her Tokyo triumphs, has spoken exclusively to Swimming World as she prepares to depart Australia on Saturday to contest the third season of the ISL in Naples.

The seven-time Tokyo medallist, who has re-written the Olympic record books, tells how she dealt with a two-week quarantine before a COVID lockdown, getting her feel for the water back and not being able to celebrate after the biggest meet of her career.

She now looks forward to flying into Italy and mixing her return to racing with some fun as well.

Post Tokyo, life has certainly been different for the 27-year-old from the Gold Coast who returned from the Games to her parents home in Wollongong, with her record-breaking haul of four gold and three bronze medals – sitting very much in a world of her own.

McKeon emerged as he most successful female athlete of the Games for total gold and total medals with US superstar Caeleb Dressel the most successful athlete with his remarkable five gold.

Individual gold came in the 50 and 100m freestyle and as a member of both the triumphant Australian 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley relays; winning bronze medals in the 100m butterfly and the 4x100m mixed medley and 4x 200m freestyle relays.

McKeon and the majority of her Australian team mates returned home from Tokyo the day after competition finished and went straight into two weeks of quarantine at Howard Springs in Darwin in the Northern Territory.

Emma McKeon in Wollongong post Tokyo 2

HEAVY MEDALS: Emma McKeon shows of her seven medals in a Herald Sun photo shoot in Wollongong. Photo Courtesy: Emma McKeon Instagram.

It was then home to the NSW south coast, where she grew up (before leaving home to chase her Olympic dreams under master coach Michael Bohl on the Queensland Gold Coast) and where COVID has forced NSW into a three-month lockdown.

But when your family runs its own swim school at least you can get in the water when ever you like and by yourself.

When Swimming World caught up with McKeon, she had just finished a leisurely solo 1.5km swim in the 25m McKeon Swim School Pool – which because of Covid has been closed since early July.

“After a good break form the pool which was important mentally, I’m back having a leisurely swim and it’s been nice not having to be anywhere at a specific time and not having that full on focus and not having an alarm going off,” said McKeon.

“It’s also good to kill some time and I’m back racing in a few weeks anyway so it’s good to get moving.

“I’m only going to swim if I feel like going; I’m not going to force myself to go; I’m just going to swim and swim how ever far I want and make my session up how I want to make it up.

“And (surprisingly) I actually don’t feel too bad; usually after having two or three weeks out of the water I feel shocking and sometimes even after three days out I feel pretty bad but this time I don’t feel too bad in the water…and having some time to reflect on the Olympics.


YEAH BABY: Emma McKeon (left), with fellow 4x100m medley relay team mates Kaylee McKeown (centre) and Chelsea Hodges. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

“Swimming is always so regimented and so focused and working on absolutely everything that I could.

“So it’s been nice just to get in and swim and have no pressure to meet certain times or swim so many kilometres – it’s been relaxing really, so I’ve been swimming around one to two kilometres every couple of days.

“I’ve swum really to keep my shoulders healthy because I’ve had a few niggles in my shoulder so I just want to keep them in good condition….”

McKeon said that during quarantine she was one of the only members of the Dolphinjs team not doing any form of exercise.

“Everyone would be up relatively early and starting to do exercise on their balconies morning and afternoon and I didn’t get my heart rate up once,” said McKeon.

“(In fact) in the afternoons I would sit back watching them exercise as I sat (on the couch) eating a packet of chips.

“And now during lockdown in Wollongong; it’s been nice just relaxing and going for walks for some exercise and enjoying sitting around the backyard fires with the family.

“Usually I’m up on the Gold Coast away from the family so it’s been nice just relaxing, not having much on my plate, in terms of going out because we can’t.

Emma McKeon in Wollongong post Tokyo

BEACH BREAK: Emma McKeon takes a coffee break in Wollongong. Photo Courtesy: Emma McKeon Instagram.

“We have had a few family dinners especially Mum’s lasagna on the night I got home after quarantine; and that was a bit different to having dinner over Facetime, it was nice to have dinner in real life…”

But McKeon admitted the whole post Olympic period “has been a bit weird”

“We finished racing on the final morning and then flew out the following day, straight into quarantine for two weeks and then straight into lock down at home for two weeks,” said McKeon.

“It’s been a bit a challenging..I haven’t really had a chance to celebrate and have some fun and I have found it pretty hard coming from the highs of the Olympics after a huge block of training and now straight into this; that’s what’s been the challenge…it’s like emotionally draining.”

McKeon said she had always planned to go to the ISL

“I kind of thought leading into Olympic Trials I’m only going to focus on Olympic Trials..I’m not even going to think about ISL…that’s why I wanted to book my flight to come home (from Tokyo),…” said McKeon.

“I just wanted to go to Tokyo only focusing on the Olympics and I think that worked for me.

“I always planned to go and the fact that we are all in lockdown here I’m now really excited to go over to just get going again and see everyone and have a bit of fun.

Emma McKeon in Wollongong post Tokyo 3

SUNSEEKER: Emma McKeon relaxing in her family backyard in Wollongong. Photo Courtesy: Emma McKeon Instagram.

“We just never get the chance to race meets like the ISL, it’s usually eight days of racing and all based on times; this is two days for two hours, so it will just be quick and a lot of fun and each time I race I’ll get my feel back more and more..”

While the Roar will open their ISL account this weekend against Energy Standard, McKeon will not arrive until their second match the week after when General Manager Rob Woodhouse will welcome his niece and the reigning Olympic 50 and 100m freestyle champion with open arms.


In a remarkable Games, Emma McKeon not only won the most medals of any competitor in Tokyo; the most gold medals by an Australian at a single Games; the most by any female competitor in Olympic history of any female, Emma is also :

THE first Australian to win four gold medals at one Games.

THE sixth Australian and the first woman to win two gold medals on the one day when she took the 50m freestyle and the 4x100m medley relay on the final night

JOINS Ian Thorpe with five gold (the most by an Australian) and;

 HER 11 medals overall, is now the greatest medal haul of any Australian Olympian.

Will there be more?….Paris 2024 awaits…




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