The Week That Was: McKeown Breaks World Record; US Trials Begin Heavy Swimming Week

Kaylee McKeown breaks Commonwealth and Australian Record, 100m BACKSTROKE Final, 2021 Sydney Open, Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre , May 15 2021. Photo by Delly Carr / SOPAC. Pic credit is mandatory for complimentary editorial usage. I thank you in advance.
Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr

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World records and near world records have lit the swimming universe ablaze this week as the best of the best from Australia and the United States have begun receiving their tickets to the Tokyo Olympic Games, set to begin in 40 days.

Read the five biggest stories of the week in The Week That Was sponsored by Suitmate.

The Week That Was #1: Kaylee McKeown Breaks 100 Back World Record at Australian Trials

BEST McKeown WR wityh Seebohm BEST

Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia)

By John Lohn

As the United States Olympic Trials await their start in a few hours, a world-record warning shot was fired Down Under on Sunday when Kaylee McKeown, riding a hot streak for several months, broke the world record in the 100-meter backstroke at the Australian Olympic Trials in Adelaide. Consider the effort the first salvo in what should be a week of back-and-forth shots by the Americans and Aussies.

The 20-year-old McKeown, fueled by a sensational turn, clocked a mark of 57.45, which bettered the former world record of 57.57. The previous standard was set by American Regan Smith on the front of the United States 400 medley relay at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju. That relay also set a world record.

In the leadup to the Aussie Trials, McKeown just missed the world record with a 57.63 marker at the Sydney Open, so her assault on Smith’s record was expected. McKeown, whose father passed way less than a year ago, was out in 28.10 and came home in 29.35. The difference-maker was her turn, as she blasted off the wall and surfaced ahead of world-record pace.

Lost in McKeown’s excellence was Emily Seebohm going 58.59 to nail down her fourth bid to the Olympic Games.

#2: Chase Kalisz Opens US Olympic Trials With 400 IM Title

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Andy Ross

In a race that was billed as the coming out party for 19-year-old Carson Foster in the 400 IM, it was deja vu for the top two in the event with Georgia Bulldogs Chase Kalisz (4:09.09) and Jay Litherland (4:10.33) getting the spots for Tokyo, mirroring what they did in 2016.

Foster was third at 4:10.86 after leading for the first 250 meters.

The Week That Was #3: Mack Horton Left Out of 400 Free For Tokyo

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Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia)

By Ian Hanson

Australia’s Rio Olympic champion Mack Horton (Melbourne Vicentre) won’t get the chance to defend his 400m crown in Tokyo after one of the greatest races in the history of swimming in Australia unfolded in the lanes of the SA Aquatic And leisure Centre in Adelaide tonight.

The 25-year-old Horton certainly gave it his best shot against the hottest domestic field of 400m freestyle swimmers in world swimming.

He hit the lead with 150m to go and even he thought he had it in the bag – but young gun Elijah Winnington (St Peters Western) and Horton’s 26-year-old Rio team mate Jack McLoughlin (Chandler, QLD) had other ideas in an epic showdown of Olympic proportions.

With a blanket covering the first five swimmers, which also included Rackley boy-wonders Tommy Neill and Sam Short, Winnington turned on the turbo chargers down the final 100m with McLoughlin in hot pursuit and Horton desperately trying the hang on.

And with the crowd on its feet and commentators, Olympic silver medallist and world champion James Magnussen and 2008 Olympian Meagen Nay screaming the house down they welcomed home an Olympic debutant in Winnington (3:42.65), and new dual Olympian McLoughlin (3:43.270, from a brave champion in Horton (3:43.92) and the next gen Neill (3:44.51) and Short (3:46.33).

#4: Federica Pellegrini Announces Retirement to Come Post ISL

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Liz Byrnes

Federica Pellegrini will bring the curtain down on a career that has brought Olympic, world and European titles at Season 3 of the International Swimming League which starts in Naples, Italy, in August.

The Italian will compete in her fifth Olympics next month in Tokyo, 17 years after her debut at Athens 2004 where she won silver behind Camelia Potec in the 200 free, 12 days after she turned 16.

She upgraded to gold at Beijing 2008 where she responded to the disappointment of finishing fifth in the 400 to set a world record of 1:55.45 in the 200 heats the very same day.

Come the final and Pellegrini once again lowered the world record to 1:54.82 en-route to the Olympic title.

The six-time world champion will turn 33 on 5 August, nine days after the 200 free final in which she will end her international racing career.

Then she will turn her attention to the ISL in Naples where she will once again represent the Aqua Centurions with the first stage of the season running in the southern Italian city from 26 August to 30 September.

There is of course the possibility that the Aqua Centurions will progress from the first stage of the ISL although they haven’t done so in the first two seasons.

In quotes reported in La Gazzetta dello Sport from an ISL press conference, Pellegrini said:

“I’ll stop but not in Tokyo – that’s when my last (international) races will be.”

She added:

“I’ll be there too in Naples. It will be like extra time in my career.

“I wanted to close with the Tokyo Olympics but there is this opportunity and I like the idea of bringing it to a close in Naples with the ISL which will be a beautiful showcase.

“I will have to be careful in those 40 days (following the Olympics) not to gain too much weight ….given the pizzas I will eat.

“The pandemic has influenced this decision, in the sense that this last year and a half of everything stopping has given me the incentive to continue and get here.”

The Week That Was #5: Ariarne Titmus Nearly Breaks Oldest Women’s World Record in 200 Free

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Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr/Swimming Australia

By Ian Hanson

Ariarne Titmus has missed the longest standing women’s swimming world record by a whisker with a powerhouse 200m freestyle win, clocking a stunning time of 1:53.09 at the Australian Olympic Trials in Adelaide tonight before suggesting she can go faster in Tokyo.

The 20-year-old produced her second freestyle master class in 24 hours – sending a message to the rest of the world after missing Federica Pellegrini 2009 “Supersuit” world mark by just 0.11 seconds.

The night before, Titmus shook the life out of Katie Ledecky’s 400m freestyle world mark – missing the US superstar’s 2016 record by less than half-a-second.

There were two stages in the middle of the third and fourth laps in her 200m tonight where Titmus appeared to produce six to eight power strokes to swim passed pacesetter Emma McKeon –who set a cracking pace.

It was a show of strength never seen before in Australian swimming – wiping every record in the books – bar one.

And she will be up against Pellegrini who at 32, will swim in a remarkable fifth Olympic Games in Tokyo, with Titmus suggesting she can swim faster.

“I’d like to think so…. I’m a racer,” she said when asked whether she could swim faster in Tokyo.

“With the Olympics around the corner, I’d hope that I can lift…. it’s the Olympic Games.”

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