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McKeon backs up, and backs herself

9 August 2016

SWIMMING: Olympic relay gold medallist Emma McKeon has taken her race tally to a gruelling five races in three days at the Rio Aquatic Centre. Yet a taste of glory has only increased her hunger for success.

Swimming in the heats, semi-finals and finals of the 100m butterfly, the final of the 4x100m relay and then this morning diving in for the heats of the women’s 200m freestyle, the rising star is showing no signs of slowing down.

The 100m butterfly didn’t go McKeon’s way last night but that left her looking for more today and the 22-year-old came out firing, clocking a 1:55.80 to move through as the second fastest qualifier behind Katie Ledecky from the USA.

“That will give me a bit of confidence leading in to tonight,” McKeon said referring to her heat swim in the 200m freestyle.

“Especially after last night when I was a bit emotional. So it’s nice to be able to back up after that. I just need to keep reminding myself that I am here because there’s things that I want to do and goals that I want to achieve and I’m here to do that, I’m not going to let a stuffed up 100m butterfly affect anything.”

Joining her in the semi-final will be a familiar face in training partner and triple Olympian Bronte Barratt.

Barratt has had an incredible 11 consecutive years on the Australian Swim Team and with Rio potentially her last racing opportunity she is all the more eager to make the most of it.

“I think I’m going to have to do a PB to make the final,” Barratt said.

“But that’s what I came here to do, so hopefully I can do that tonight, and if not then I just want to do my best and that will be enough for me.”

Barratt finished with a time of 1:56.93 to qualify 10th for tonight’s semi-final.

Another fellow St Peters Western swimmer, Grant Irvine, also jumped in for the heats this morning.

Swimming at his first ever Olympic Games, 25-year-old Irvine has already achieved quite a remarkable feat - beating Michael Phelps in the men’s 200m butterfly heats.

“Not many people can say they’ve beaten Michael Phelps at an Olympic Games, even though it was a heat, I’m still stoked with the outcome really,” Irvine said.

Irvine’s time of 1:55.64 was one of his fastest international race times, ranking him fourth overall and bodes well for the semi-final to come.

After first making the team for the World Short Course Championships in 2012, Irvine has learned from his international racing experiences and knows what it takes to succeed at this level.

“I thought I had to put like 98, 99 per cent into that, so you can’t really leave too much in the tank in a heat; you need to expect anything. Turns out I was fourth into tonight so I’m stoked with that result for now.”

Fellow Aussie David Morgan, also racing at his first Olympic Games, clocked a 1:56.81 to finish seventh in his heat and 19th overall.

Five-time London Olympic medallist Alicia Coutts made her long-awaited return to the pool in the heats of the 200m individual medley today.

After taking a break in 2015, Coutts was almost back to her best as she cruised through to tonight’s semi-final in a time of 2:10.52, ranking her sixth.

There is nothing holding her back in Rio and Canberra based Coutts was ready to unleash in the finals.

“I’ve got nothing to lose,” Coutts said.

“I’m here to give it everything I’ve got and after this event I’ve got other things to look forward to,” Coutts added, referring to her belated honeymoon with husband Steve after the Olympic Games.

While Olympic debutant Kotuku Ngawati was unable to advance to the semi-finals, the Melbourne based swimmer who trains alongside gold medallist Mack Horton was proud of how far she had come.

“It was very nerve-wracking but at the same time I’m proud of myself,” the 22-year-old Ngawati said.

“To call myself an Olympian is a huge privilege for me, so I’m stoked. It’s not easy, it looks easy but I did the best I could and I’m so proud of myself for getting onto the team and just getting this far, so I couldn’t ask for anything else.”

“First Olympics, but watch out - in four years I’ll come back - 2020 Tokyo … I’m looking forward to it.”

Kathleen Rayment


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