Tears And Tributes Flow As Kaylee McKeown Sets A New WR and Ariarne Titmus Rattles Katie Ledecky’s 400 Free Mark

BEST McKeown WR wityh Seebohm BEST
TOKYO TEARS: New world record holder Kaylee McKeown congratulated by four-time Olympian Emily Seebohm who will join her on the plane to Tokyo. Photo Courtesy Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Tears And Tributes Flow As Kaylee McKeown Sets A New WR and Ariarne Titmus Rattles Katie Ledecky’s 400 Free Mark

Australian wonder girls Kaylee McKeown and Ariarne Titmus have tonight sent a clear message to the world – “we’re ready to take the Tokyo Olympic pool by storm.”

First McKeown (USC Spartans) with a new world record of 57.45 in the 100m backstroke and then Titmus (St Peters Western) with the second fastest time in history of 3:56.90 in the 400m freestyle brought the house down at the SA Aquatic and Leisure in a thrilling second night of the Olympic Trials in Adelaide.

McKeown, with coach Chris Mooney guiding her career and former coach John Wallace still in her corner, smashed the world record of 57.57 by 0.12 splitting (28.10/29.35) to book her seat to Tokyo in the fastest possible way.

McKeown WR 1

WORLD RECORD MOMENT: The moment Kaylee McKeown saw the score board reading 57.45 and this was her reaction. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Screen Sharon McKeown Shot 2021-06-13 at 8.43.11 pm

THAT’S MY GIRL: Kaylee McKeown’s mum Sharon reacts to her daughter’s amazing WR swim. Photo Courtesy: Amazon Prime Video.

US star Regan Smith’s 2019 world mark, set at the Gwangju World Championships in Korea was a time many keen judges said would last a lot longer than it did.

An emotional McKeown waved to her mother Sharon in the grandstand before the race and dedicated the world record to her late father Sholto (who passed away from brain cancer last August) after the best swim of her life.

In another huge show of depth 29-year-old Emily Seebohm (58.59), rising 17-year-old star Mollie O’Callaghan (58.86) who challenged Seebohm over the final 25 metres and former World’s silver medallist Madi Wilson (59.02) all swam under the Olympic qualifying time of 59,.71, with world championship silver medallist Minna Atherton (59,.74) and one of the first to congratulate McKeown, just outside in fifth.

For McKeown she delivered a power punch that had been brewing all season – nudging the WR time at the Sydney Open a month ago with her with 57.93 – but making it hers tonight.

With three-time world champion Seebohm  (Griffith University, QLD) on one side and world Wilson (Marion, SA) on the other McKeown  wasted no time in setting a cracking pace – splitting 28.10 at the 50m turn.

And there was no holding “kid Kaylee” down the last lap as she powered her way clear of one of arguably the best field ever assembled at an Olympic Trials.

Two questions emerged – Would McKeown break the world record? And would the 29-year-old Seebohm hold on in her birth State to join Leisel Jones as only the second Australian four-time swimming Olympian?

And in an instant both questions were answered loud and clear:  “Yes and Yes!”

“We’ve been revving up for the whole year to finally get myself onto that Olympic team it’s a dream come true it really is opening swim on night two, I couldn’t have asked for much more,” said McKeown.

“I had a special wave to my mum.. I knew she was up in the crowd and I don’t normally like looking up in the crowd on my way out, I just get a bit nervous but doing that tonight and coming out I couldn’t help but look up.

“With Covid and the passing of my Dad in August this has been a huge build up to these Trials.

“And I have turned it in to a hunger and a motivation; every day I wake up , I know it’s a privilege to be on this earth and to walk and talk so to get up and do that tonight not only for me but my family my team at USC Spartans and all the support staff as well.

Coach Mooney and Kaylee

OVER THE MOON: The moment Kaylee McKeown met coach Chris Mooney after herb vWR swim. Photo Courtesy: Amazon Prime Video.

“Coach Chris Mooney said something to me before I dived in for the warm ‘you know buddy I believe in you.’

“I knew and he knew that tonight was ‘go time’ he knew that something special was about to happen..

“I may not have known it ..I was just trying to keep the nerves down as much as I could….and it just so happened that I nailed all those little pin points I was going for……..”

Inspired by that swim, Titmus, too attacked the water like never before – swimming under Katie Ledecky’s 2016 world record split from 2016 on the first of her eight laps – teetering with the world record until she edged past it down the last lap – but missing it by just 0.44.

As she burst off the final wall, Titmus raced up and passed the red world record line, touching it until she reached the backstroke flags where she held her breath and swam head down to the wall – looking up to see had become only the second swimmer in history under 3:57.00 -with her new Commonwealth and Australian record time of 3:56.90 – joining Ledecky in a realm no other swimmer has ever been.

Asked whether she thought the world record was possible, Titmus said: “No….I did not think that a 3:56 was in my realm tonight.

“That world record is outstanding so to be close to that this close to the Olympics I’m very excited.

“And the biggest thing is confidence in racing. I feel that after the six months that I’ve had (with a shoulder injury) that’s the most I’ve got out of it tonight…. we knew what we had to do…”

The 2019 world champion certainly sending a clear message to Ledecky, the world’s greatest ever female swimmer, who is warming up for the US Trials about to start in Omaha, Nebraska.

But Titmus, who beat Ledecky, swimming past the world record holder and Olympic champion down the last lap of the 400m final in Gwangju, is up for the challenge in Tokyo.

“She is not going to have it all her own way I guess…I can’t control what she does, I can’t only control myself,” said a beaming Titmus after the race, setting the scene for a return to the “Duel In the Pool” days with the US.

“I’ll do the best I can and put myself in a position to win a gold medal it’s going to be a tough race…

“After Kaylee tonight I think the backstroke is gone….! I think we have chances in a lot of events…I’m sure the Olympics will not go all America’s way…

“I think there will be other countries coming through and we are definitely in the mix – so far we’ve got a pretty strong team..Emma McKeon’s swim last night was unbelieveable….Elijah Winnington and Jack McLoughlin – watching those races got the juices flowing.”

TITMUS

TITMUS TIME: Ariarne Titmus sure did make a splash with her 400m time of 3:56.90. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Titmus 2021 Splits (27.68; 57.31; 1:27.32; 1:57.49; 2:27.73; 2:57.77; 3:27.88; 3:56.90

Ledecky’s 2016 Splits: 27.73, 57.05 1:26.99; 1:57.11 2:27.41 2:57.62; 3:27.54 3:56.46

With Titmus forging ahead in what appeared to be an effortless show of precision stroking, the battle for second unfolded between Rio relay silver medallist UWA West Coast’s Tamsin Cook – who was the baby of the team in 2016 and retired a year later, Griffith Uni’s Lani Pallister and TSS Aquatic pair Kiah Melverton and Madeleine Gough.

In the end it was Cook with a fairytale finish under the qualifying time with 4:04.10 who snatched the second individual swim ahead of Melverton (4:04.78), Gough (4:05.60), Pallister (4:07.07) and the third TSS girl Moesha Johnson (4:07.08) – all under the Olympic qualifying standard  in another huge show of women’s freestyle depth.

The world awaits…..

 

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