McKeon humble despite historic swimming haul

general02 August 2021 04:26| © AFP
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Emma McKeon © Gallo Images

A humble Emma McKeon on Monday downplayed her remarkable feats at the Tokyo Olympics despite winning an unsurpassed seven swimming medals to join the all-time greats.

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The 27-year-old Australian was the undisputed queen in the Tokyo pool, with her medal haul -- four gold and three bronze -- surpassing the six won by East German Kristin Otto (1952) and American Natalie Coughlin (2008).

In all, she swam 13 races in nine days and said it "still hasn't really sunk in yet".

"I feel just like everyone else up here, we have done an amazing job," she said at a press conference alongside fellow gold medallists including Ariarne Titmus, Kaylee McKeown and Cate Campbell.

"The whole team has done an amazing job, and I'm just wanting to be part of that team.

"I'm just grateful I could be here and that Japan could allow us to go after our dreams."

McKeon matched the record for the most decorated female athlete at a single Games ever, tied with Russian gymnast Maria Gorokhovskaya (1952).

Asked how it felt to be elevated onto such a lofty pedestal, she said: "Honestly, I'm not alone.

"I've got a whole team behind me, my coach. Everyone up here (at the press conference) is right there with me because everyone here is an Olympic medallist and that is incredible."


McKeon won gold medals in the 50m and 100m freestyle, setting Olympic records in each, and also claimed titles in the 4x100m freestyle relay and the 4x100m medley relay.

Her bronze medals came in the 100m butterfly, 4x200m freestyle relay and the 4x100m mixed medley relay.

Whether she will be in Paris in 2024 to defend them remains to be seen.

McKeon was non-committal when asked, as was veteran sprinter Campbell, who has won eight medals over four Olympics, including four gold.

"I have loved every minute in the pool and loved being part of this team for many, many years and seeing it grow and evolve into the absolutely incredible unstoppable beast that it became this week," said 29-year-old Campbell.

"I just need to reflect and soak that all in and not make any life decisions when I'm full of emotions."

Australia's entire swim team now face a return to Australia not to fanfare, but 14 days of mandatory hotel quarantine under strict coronavirus rules.

Head coach Rohan Taylor, who orchestrated their 20-medal haul, including a record nine golds, said it would be hard, but support measures and virtual activities had been put in place to help them cope.

Titmus, who dethroned the great Katie Ledecky in the 200m and 400m freestyle, admitted she wasn't looking forward to the ordeal.

"But it'll probably be an opportunity to just relax and reflect. I think that's going to be nice for the first few days, and I'll definitely be sleeping and watching the Olympics," she said.