ADELAIDE: Kaylee McKeown capped a perfect build-up to the Tokyo Olympics with the year’s fastest 200m backstroke at the Australian trials yesterday, while Ariarne Titmus fired another warning to American great Katie Ledecky. The 19-year-old McKeown, who smashed the 100m backstroke world record this week, set a new Commonwealth mark of 2 mins 04.28 secs as she counts down to Japan and a crack at three individual gold medals.
Titmus has also been red-hot, clocking the second-fastest time ever in the 200m and 400m freestyle in recent days, events in which she will go head-to-head with Ledecky in Japan. She sent another message to her rival in the 800m, cruising to a new Australian record 8:15.57, with only the American superstar better this year. McKeown has been scintillating all season and was unstoppable again on Thursday, the final day of the six-day trials in Adelaide.
She was under US star Regan Smith’s world-record pace for much of the race before slowing at the death, but still clocked the year’s best. Emily Seebohm, the 2015 and 2017 world champion, was second in 2:06.38 as she readies for a fourth Olympics, having also qualified in the 100m back. “It definitely hurt a lot in the last 15… it’s been a long week,” said McKeown, who has also qualified for the 200m individual medley, where she owns the world’s best time this season. “After the 100m backstroke it definitely took the pressure off and I just came out tonight and gave it my best.”
Titmus admitted that backing up from the 200m was hard work. “It’s definitely tough after a 200m, I mean being a sprinter for a day and then having to come up to the 800 and try and reassess how I’m going to swim the race,” she said. “But I’m really happy that I could do a PB (personal best). I’ll look back at how the race went and see what I can improve on for Tokyo.”
Elsewhere, Emma McKeon, another strong multiple gold medal contender, added a fourth individual event to her Tokyo programme when she won the 50m freestyle in a sizzling 23:93. She will also swim the 100m and 200m, along with the 100m butterfly and relays in Japan, owning world-class times in all events this year.
Veteran Cate Campbell matched McKeon in going under 24 seconds to book her spot in the splash and dash. The only other swimmer to breach the magic mark this year is the Netherlands’ Ranomi Kromowidjojo. Matthew Temple announced himself as a serious medal prospect in the 100m butterfly, touching in a new Australian record 50:45, the world’s second-quickest this year. David Morgan (51:67) was second, with both men qualifying.
Pop star turned swimmer Cody Simpson made the final but finished last in 52:94. It was nevertheless an incredible achievement after only returning to the pool competitively last year following a 10-year absence. “Just to be out here racing with the best butterflyers in the country is pretty awesome,” said Simpson, who has made three albums and publicly dated celebrities Miley Cyrus and Gigi Hadid. Jack McLoughlin, who had already made the grade for the 400m and 800m freestyle, added the 1500m to his demanding Olympic schedule, touching in 14:52.69. – AFP