Olympics: Green And Golden Days Return To Tokyo’s Pool of Dreams With A Headline Act From Australia’s Dolphins

emma mckeon, olympics
GOLDEN GREAT: Emma McKeon swims her way into the Olympic history books in Tokyo. Photo Courtesy: Simone Castrovillari/Speedo.

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Olympics: Green And Golden Days Return To Tokyo’s Pool of Dreams With A Headline Act From Australia’s Dolphins

The glory days of the Australian Swim Team returned in spectacular style in a memorable eight-day Olympic gold medal rush at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre – and already team bosses are planning and plotting the team’s assault towards Paris 2024.


HEADLINE ACTS: Photos Courtesy: News Limited

The nine-gold medal haul by the Dolphins have generated these page one headlines including “Our Greatest” that have sent Australia into a swimming spin.

The team proudly displayed their medals and Australian flags and posed for history-making, history-keeping photos today in Tokyo after a medal factory-revealing final press conference, before returning to Australia and a two-week quarantine in Darwin.

A team of all ages from 28 and 29-year-old veterans of four Olympic campaigns Emily Seebohm and Cate Campbell to baby of the team in 17-year-old schoolgirl Mollie O’Callaghan, who returns with three medals – two gold and a bronze.

A team that came together like the teams of 2000, 2004 and 2008 – teams that included the likes of Kieren Perkins, Susie O’Neill, Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett, Jodie Henry and Petria Thomas.

Thorpe saying in television commentary this week on Channel 7 that the spirit and the success of the class of 2020-21 matched that of the glory days of 2000-01 – when they won the World Championships in Fukuoka.


SHOUT OUT: Emma McKeon, Kaylee McKerown and Chelsea Hodges the moment Cate Campbell toiuched for gold iun the 4x100m medley relay. Photo Courtesy: Simone Castrovillari/Speedo.

It has been 20 years since the Dolphins commanded the kind of headlines that heralded the performances gracing the front and back pages of the newspapers in this swimming mad country.

With Olympic broadcaster Channel Seven bringing unprecedented blanket coverage that has generating record ratings with much of Australia forced to stay at home in Covid lockdown – watching every lap, every turn and every dive of swimming coverage – making a splash after a broadcast drought that saw no live free-to-air coverage of the 2019 World Championships.

The Swim Team is back!

A 35-strong pool of Dolphins, led by National Head Coach Rohan Taylor and his right hand man, mentor coach Leigh Nugent, and a team of coaches who steered their charges to the best performances of their lives.

Twenty-five of them winning medals – a total of 53 medals –precious cargo that will be packed into their green and gold kit bags – as they jet out of Tokyo bound for Darwin.

“It’s amazing, unbelievable, everything we were hoping for,” Taylor said at a team press conference in Tokyo today.

“We had some things that didn’t go our way, but we had more go our way than not.

“I’m so proud to be a part of the team. Going through Covid was a challenging time for everyone in the world and for these athletes to come together, we really played on that as a resilience thing.”


BACK ON TOP: Kaylee McKeown chips in with two of Australia’s nine gold in the 100 and 200m backstroke. Photo Courtesy:Simone Castrovillari/Speedo.

And on shifting the Australian Trials to five weeks before the Games? Taylor said: “Obviously we’ve performed very well, so I would suggest off that … it went well.

“It’s something we needed to do – we needed to try something different, because we’d been doing the same thing for so long.

“I’d say it’s one of the ingredients, but probably the most important ingredient is we have is (a group of)…. talented athletes who know how to compete under pressure.”

With the team’s mentor coach and 2008 and 2012 head coach Nugent full of praise for the staff, with his own words of wisdom: “We had a wonderful coaching and support team assisting a team of professional swimmers to perform to their capabilities. A result of implementing change from the learnings of our Olympic performances of the past three decades.”

The pair will now spend their quarantine time reviewing and planning their Paris assault which is less than three years away – the World Championships and Commonwealth Games in Birmingham here before we know it.

They will build the future on a team that re-wrote the record books and continued to re-write them and re-write all over again before the ink was dry…..as the 2020-21 Dolphins became the country’s greatest ever Olympic Swim Team –winning: Nine Gold, Three Silver and Eight bronze medals for a total of 20 medals – the most ever gold by an Australian Swim team at an Olympics Games – one more than Melbourne from 1956 and two more than Athens from 2004.

A team that won four of the six women’s freestyle gold medals with Emma McKeon taking the 50 and 100m freestyle and Ariarne Titmus the 200 and 400m freestyle with those memorable performances to beat the world’s greatest swimmer Katie Ledecky (USA) and pushing home strongly adding a close up silver to Ledecky in an 800m freestyle that the US superstar won for a record third Olympics.

Jul 30, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Emma McKeon (AUS) and Cate Campbell (AUS) place first and third in the women's 100m freestyle final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

YEAH BABY: Cate Campbell – That’s what I’m talking about. Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports

Joined on the top of dais by triple gold medallist Kaylee McKeown who won the 100m and 200m backstroke gold and joining McKeon, rookie breaststroker Chelsea Hodges and four-time Olympic legend Cate Campbell for a spectacular medley mix that lit the final candle on a cake of gold.

McKeon won the greatest ever medal haul of any female swimmer in Olympic history with seven (Four gold and three silver); added to her four medals in Rio (1-1-2) and the 27-year-old becomes Australia’s greatest gold medallist from one single Games; the greatest total medal winner with 11, with her five total Games gold medals equaling Ian Thorpe with five.

A humble champion who added her third (50m freestyle) and fourth (the butterfly leg in the 4x100m medley) gold medals on the final day of swimming at a Tokyo Games that has ushered in the Australian team’s finest Olympic hours.

And it was Campbell who was full of praise for McKeon, saying: “I would just like to say full credit to Emma … we just need to acknowledge what an incredible job she has done. She walks away from these Games with four gold medals…

“I honestly could not be happier for her. She is such an important part of this team and I think that needs to be recognised.”

And although she would not buy into her own future, Campbell, always the class act, showed just why she will go down in history as one of Australia’s all-time greats – adding that final golden touch to what could well be her last hurrah.

McKeon now headlines a list of some the country’s Olympic swimming greats:

Most Gold At A Single Games

4 Emma McKeon (Tokyo, 2020)

3 Stephanie Rice (Beijing, 2008)

3 Jodie Henry (Athens, 2004)

3 Petria Thomas (Athens, 2004)

3 Ian Thorpe (Sydney, 2000)

3 Kaylee McKeown (Tokyo, 2020)

3 Shane Gould (Munich, 1972)

3 Murray Rose (Melbourne, 1956)

Most Total Gold

5 Emma McKeon (Rio/Tokyo)

5 Ian Thorpe (Sydney/Athens)

4 Dawn Fraser (Melbourne/Rome/Tokyo); Cate Campbell (Beijing/London/Rio/Tokyo); Libby Trickett (Athens/Beijing/London)

4 Murray Rose (Melbourne/Rome)

Most Total Medals

11 Emma McKeon

9 Ian Thorpe, Leisel Jones

8 Dawn Fraser, Cate Campbell, Petria Thomas

7 , Emily Seebohm, Grant Hackett, Libby Trickett

Aug 1, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Australia relay team of Kaylee McKeown (AUS), Chelsea Hodges (AUS), Emma McKeon (AUS) and Cate Campbell (AUS) during the medals ceremony for the women's 4x100m medley relay during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

WHAT A GOLDEN MIX: Australia’s victorious medley team Kaylee McKeown, Chelsea Hodges, Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell. Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports


  1. avatar

    Susie O’Neill also won 8 medals during her career.

  2. avatar

    Amazing team effort .. I hope part of the review process going forward is dissecting their strategy for that 4×200 relay and also increasing the depth in the men’s team to help with mixed medley and medley relay chances for Paris ..

    There’s also some holes in certain events such women’s IM so hopefully we can get a qualifier in every event by Paris

    PS keep the trials format 5 weeks out from the major

  3. avatar

    Comparison with 1956 has a minefield of variables around it.
    Here’s just a few:
    1956 : 13 events, 33 countries, 235 competitors, the Netherlands boycott (due to Soviet suppression of the Hungarian uprising) took two world record holders and a number of top ranked swimmers out of the women’s events. Cockie Gastrlaars broke the 100 free WR twice in ‘56 and Ada den Haan’s 200 Breast WR was 7 seconds faster than the winning time in Melbourne.
    The Dutch would have been a real force in the 4×1 relay as well.
    On top of these points above WW II was only 11 years in the rear vision mirror. Countries such as Aus, USA & Can had a huge advantage over European and Asian nations that had been devastated by war.
    Fast forward to 2021 : 37 events, 938 competitors over 100 competing nations.
    European and Asian nations much more affluent and advanced than they were in ‘56.
    21 nations medaled in 2021
    In ‘56 only a hand full nations medaled.
    No boycotts in 2021.
    Add the home ground advantage in Melbourne
    These variables make the dolphins performance in 2021 so much more significant than the ‘56 performance

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