Emma McKeon admits being surprised by her stunning ascension as Australia’s top 100-metre freestyler. McKeon has taken the mantle from Cate Campbell, whose emotions ranged from relief to ecstasy at making her fourth Olympic team.
McKeon has beaten Campbell three times in the past two months – the latest on Wednesday night at Australia’s Olympic selection trials. In a sizzling final in Adelaide, four swimmers – McKeon, Campbell, Madi Wilson and Meg Harris – broke the 53-second barrier, with Bronte Campbell fifth in 53.08s.
“What is going on? The depth of talent in this event is just incredible,” Cate Campbell said. The top four at the trials are among the five fastest swimmers in the world this year in the blue riband race. The quickest of the lot, McKeon, now boasts the year’s best two times, headed by her 52.19s heat swim on Wednesday morning.
“I never really thought that the 100 would be one of my specialities,” McKeon said. “I didn’t go as quick as I would have liked tonight but finals will be in the morning in Tokyo, so that is where it counts.”
Cate Campbell described the build-up “as the most nerve-wracking week of my life”. “To go to a fourth Olympics … I am relieved, I’m excited, I’m ecstatic,” she said.
Earlier, Mitch Larkin triumphed in the men’s 200m individual medley, ensuring he added the event to his 100m backstroke in Tokyo. Larkin clocked the second-fastest time in the world this year but was bracing for a spray from his coach Dean Boxall.
“I have a few things to work on, my ‘fly was a bit long into the wall, the breast turn was a little sloppy, but they are really minor things,” Larkin said. “I am probably going to get crucified by Dean for lifting my head before I touched the wall a little.”
In the women’s 200m breaststroke, Jenna Strauch pipped Abbey Harkin with both swimmers inside the qualifying time to secure their Olympic debuts.
Strauch’s selection was particularly sweet as nine years ago, when aged 15, she was hit by illness at the world junior titles in Dubai. Strauch contracted three parasites which were masking each other and spent the best part of the next two years in and out of hospital.
And the 200m backstroke final was won by Tristan Hollard, the only swimmer to better the Olympic qualifying time.