Emma McKeon rounded out her stint at the Tokyo Olympics with four gold medals and three bronze medals, cementing her place in history by becoming the most decorated Australian athlete at a single Olympics.
As has been pointed out repeatedly since Sunday, if McKeon were a nation, she would be ranked 13th on the medal tally, ahead of Canada. Over her career, the 27-year-old has now won 11 Olympic medals, five of them are gold.
After winning two golds on Sunday, first in the 50m freestyle and then the women’s 4x100m medley relay, McKeon – humble as ever, said the statistics were “very surreal”.
“I only hear from you guys [the media] those kind of stats. I look at the athletes that have come before me. I’ve been so impressed by what they’ve done, so inspired. But I’ve never really been into the stats of the medal counts. But to be in that kind of company, it’s an honour. I know that I’ve worked hard for it.”
McKeon won the 50m freestyle in a time of 23.81, an Olympic record, and her faultless swim helped Australia set an Olympic record in the 4x100m medley relay, with a time of 3:51:60.
“I never thought that I would win a 50 freestyle because I have been training for the 200 my whole life,’’ she said afterwards. “If I put it altogether I knew I could win.”
“I think the whole week I’ve been kind of keeping my emotions just at a certain level because I knew I had so much more racing to do. It’s very surreal to be in that kind of company.”
McKeon’s contribution on Sunday, saw the day become the most successful day in Australia’s Olympic history, and skyrocketed us to fourth overall on the medal tally.
Australia’s most successful Olympian: Emma McKeon.— #Tokyo2020 (@Tokyo2020) August 1, 2021
📄 Her CV
🥉100m Butterfly pic.twitter.com/uOoYfQTmkN
Champion swimmer and Olympic commentator Ian Thorpe said, “this has most definitely been Emma McKeon’s meet”.
“She has been dominant, she’s been brilliant, she’s been fantastic, and it has been a pleasure to watch,” he said.
McKeon now matches Thorpe as the only Australians to win five Olympic gold medals in total over their career.
Liesel Jones, another Australian champion, said “I just don’t even know what to say, really”.
“That is so impressive. It just blows my mind, how incredible, the names of people and how many medals she’s won. She’s been on that dais so often it’s become her home.”
McKeon’s success in Tokyo came as Australia’s other female swimmers including Ariarne Titmus, Kaylee McKeown, Cate Campbell, Emily Seebohm, Chelsea Hodges, and Bronte Campbell, put on some brilliant performances.
The unassuming Emma McKeon, who is known as a quiet achiever, admitted that until Tokyo, she had never said publicly she wanted to win.
“I don’t usually say things like this but coming here, I wanted to win. I came here for gold. That’s what me and my coach, Michael Bohl, worked on. To finish now and I’ve got, what, four of them? I can’t believe it,” she said.
“It does mean a lot to me. It’s overwhelming … it’s pretty special, it’s pretty cool. I grew up watching swimming and watching amazing athletes do amazing things in Australia. I grew up wanting to do a similar thing.”