Kaylee McKeown opened up about her family’s difficult year as she exited the pool for a post race interview, after smashing the 100 metre backstroke world record.
She shared the word on the pool deck alongside Emily Seebohm, who swam second behind her and qualified for her 4th Olympic Games. Seebohm supported her competitor, reaching out to take her arm, and also noted some of her own challenges: particularly in dealing with those who said she could never do what she’d just achieved.
Having just set a time of 57.45 seconds at the Olympic trials on Sunday night — and booked a spot to the Tokyo Games — McKeown said that just ten months earlier, her father passed away from brain cancer.
“With Covid and the passing of my Dad in August last year, it has been a huge, huge build-up to these trials,” she said. “And I have turned it into a bit of a hunger and motivation behind me.
“I use it every day that I wake up. I know it’s a privilege to be on this earth and walk and talk. So to get up and do that tonight is not really for me but my family.”
McKeown said she shared a wave with her mother just prior to the race. Later, the cameras caught the two in an emotional embrace.
Seebohm also highlighted the resilience it’s taken her to get to this point in 2021, booking a 4th Olympics spot, something very few swimmers before her have achieved. She noted her disappointment in failing to qualify for the 2019 World Championships.
“A lot of people said that I wasn’t going to do it, I was too old, I needed to lose weight, I needed to look different, and I guess I just stuck to my guns and stuck to what I knew would work best for me,” she said.
“Two years ago, I didn’t feel comfortable in my togs and to be here and feel comfortable again and to race happy again is such a blessing.”
In late 2020 Seebolhm shared on Instagram how she’d battled an eating disorder for two years.
“For over two years I’ve been dealing with an eating disorder,” she wrote.
“I’ve binged, purged and taken laxatives. I’ve counted calories, skipped meals and constantly weighted myself.
“I’ve been embarrassed to be in my togs.
“I have judged my body every time I have been in front of a mirror.”
She went on to say, on January 1 this year, that she would be “braver for myself”. She would give her body the love it deserves and start getting honest with everyone around her, including herself.
Seebohm has also had major surgery for endometriosis.
McKeown beat the 57.57 record set by American Regan Smith in 2019 — they will go head to head at the Games in a few weeks time.
Seebohm is a two-time Olympic Gold medalist, who started winning Australian championship races at age 14. Now 28, she had previously said that if she qualified for Tokyo, it would be her last Olympics.
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