World Championships, Day Seven, 200m Backstroke: Kaylee McKeown Sweeps The Backstrokes Winning Australia’s 12th Gold Medal of The Meet

TRIPLE TREAT: Kaylee McKeown. Photo Courtesy: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

World Championships, Day Seven, 200m Backstroke: Kaylee McKeown Sweeps The Backstrokes And Australia’s 12th Gold Medal of The Meet

Australia’s triple Olympic gold medallist Kaylee McKeown has swum her way to exhaustion and into the World Championship history books, becoming the first woman to sweep the 50, 100 and tonight the 200m backstroke in a fighting Fukuoka finish – and the 12th gold medal of what has been a dynamic Dolphins campaign.

The defending champion, coached by the master Michael Bohl out of the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre, powered home over the final 50 metres to win in a time of 2:03.85 (29.11; 1:00.81; 1:32.33) to again leave US rival Regan Smith to savour her third silver medal in 2:04.94 (28.96; 1:00.26; 1:32.25) b with China’s Peng Xuwei, sixth last year, winning a deserved bronze in 2:06.74 (29.28; 1:01.29);l 1:33.93).

The 22-year-old swam her way to near collapse, timing her final 50m to perfection, after her US rival Smith had pushed the limit, leading  through the first 150 metres.

Kaylee three Channel 9

THREE OF A KIND: And all Aces for Australia’s backstroking golden girl Kaylee McKeown. Photo Courtesy: Channel 9 (Australia)

But McKeown, who became the first woman to win the 50 and 100m backstroke double had to dig deeper than she has ever done before – narrowing the gap from 0.85 at the 50m turn to 0.08 on the final turn – and with 25 metres to swim, her legs burning like never before in a race, powered her way past Smith and into the annals of World Championship history.

On winning the backstroke treble, McKeown said: “It’s something that I never thought I’d be able to do, and it’s something that I definitely didn’t have in the back of my mind.

“So I think coming into every meet, I would just have a positive mindset and try to tick off the boxes through heats, semis to finals. To be on the podium and not only just for me but for my Australian teammates is such a surreal moment.”

McKeown’s time was the sixth fastest in history – giving her seven of the fastest 11 times ever swum, asserting herself as the premier woman backstroker with the 2024 Paris Olympics just less than 12 months away.

It was McKeown’s fourth individual World Championship gold medal and her fifth overall medal, becoming the fourth woman to go back-to-back in the 200m backstroke, joining fellow Australian Emily Seebohm who won the double in 2015 in Kazan, also defending her title in Budapest in 2017.

Australia has in fact won four off the last five 200m backstroke crowns – Seebohm in ’15 and ’17 and McKeown in ’22 and 23 – with Smith taking out 2019 in Gwangju.

Kaylee MCKEOWN Start FUKUOKA Delly Carr

ARCHWAY TO SUCCESS: Kaylee McKeown Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Just moments after the race, a pale looking McKeown spoke to Channel 9’s poolside interviewer Tom Decent and she looked like she was going to drop to the floor, gasping for breath saying: “I was just really happy  I was able to put everything behind me and act like it was day one – (although) it didn’t feel like it was day one but I’m really happy with that.”

Then asked about how her body was feeling and after shedding dome tears in the warm up last night, McKeown replied: “I just want to lay down….my legs are about to give out so …I need to swim down…..”

But McKeown did return to the television Mixed Zone after the presentation and was asked by Decent if she reached the warm down pool?

“(When I was talking too you before) I was pretty gassed after the race and I (actually) didn’t make it to the warm down pool….I found a chair and sat down…..(and went to presentation) and was so proud to be on the podium tonight,” said McKeown.

“(All I wanted to do) was get my hand on the wall in that race and finish it…..pretty hard to have the 200m backstroke (final) on the second last day of the meet so I knew I had to compose myself and do what I do in training…”

Asked about she had one more big race in her for the medley relay on the final night, McKeown said: “I certainly hope so…. I’ll do the best for Australia like I always do….”

McKeown was full of praise for Smith, saying; “I think it’s great experience. It definitely brought out my nerves, but without Regan  pushing me and without me pushing her, I don’t think we’d be the swimmers we are today. I’m super grateful that we have that competitive rivalry and we probably spoke the most that we have this week than we have in all of our careers. We’ve been racing each other since 2017 when we were both juniors. It’s gone back way before anyone ever thought (we would be doing this)…..It’s pretty special.”

Kaylee and Regan Smith 100bk Wade's photos

EMBRACING Kaylee McKeown and Regan Smith. Photo Courtesy: Wade Brennan Photography.

And Regan on Kaylee McKeown?:

“I think it’s great. Kaylee is a great competitor and she’s been on fire for a very long time now. This is a place that I never really thought that I could get to again for a couple of years of my life.

“So to be here and see that I’m on the rise back up is really awesome for me. It gives me a lot of confidence going into this next year leading up to Paris. It’s been great. She’s a great competitor. I think I race my best when I’m against her and it’s a lot of fun.”

Meanwhile, former two-time world champion and Australian Olympic gold medallist, fellow backstroker, Giaan Rooney said it was the toughest race of the week for McKeown, saying: “We knew she had to find something tonight and find it she did !”

Rooney also believes that McKeown’s disqualification in the 200m individual medley earlier in the week may well be a “blessing in disguise” on the road to Paris 2024.

Discussing the 200m individual medley disqualification win Channel 9, Rooney said: “Funnily enough we had been talking about how that may have given Kaylee a bee in her bonnet and give her extra motivation if you like but it my well have been a blessing in disguise.

“Because Kaylee was trying to add the 200 IM to her program at these World Championships to see if she adds it to her program for Paris next year.

“I (actually) think it’s been a bit of a reality check –(her) program is enough on its own with the 100 and 200m backstroke in 2024 – I’ll be surprised if she (now) adds that 200IM so this week has panned out perfectly…”


Kaylee gold 100m bk Fukuoka Delly Carr

THAT’S GOLD: Kaylee McKeown with one off her three gold medals. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia)


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