Water baby McKeon ready to make a splash in Rio
Australian swimmer Emma McKeon, 22, was virtually born in the water. Both of her parents represented their country in swimming – her father Ron competed at the Olympic Games in 1980 and 1984 - so the sport was part of her life from an early age.
“I grew up around the water, at the beach, the backyard pool, etc. so my love of swimming started at a very young age,” explains the freestyle and butterfly specialist. “My brother and sister and I were always active doing some form of sport around the water - swimming, surfing, waterskiing - and my parents also run a swim school, so I learned early.
Emma started swimming competitively at the age of 13, but her first taste of international competition was at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, which she says, provided her with a wealth of experience, and plenty of cherished memories.
“As someone who grew up dreaming of competing for my country at the Olympics, being selected for the Youth Olympic team was pretty exciting. I didn't really know what to expect because it was my first international competition, but it gave me the opportunity to get an idea of what competing at the Olympics would be like, but obviously on a smaller scale.
“I love the social side of swimming and the fact that I have made so many lifelong friends through my sport. The opportunities I have gotten through swimming are amazing, getting to see the world and meet so many different people. The YOG was great in that respect.
“Competing in the mixed relays with the boys was a real highlight; it's not something we get to do very often so it was a lot of fun.”
She is also convinced that her Singapore experience provided her with a platform for senior success and put her in good stead for what lies ahead in Rio. “The YOG was a fun introduction to international racing for me and it probably inspired me to want to keep competing through to an older age and make the Olympic team. There was a fun, energetic and relaxed atmosphere, which meant it wasn’t too daunting, so it was a really great thing to be a part of. I think having experienced the YOG will help me prepare for certain aspects of the Games, particularly the Olympic Village set-up, and the fact that so many different countries will be involved. But obviously everything in Rio will be on a much bigger scale.”
Emma says that competing in the Olympic pool in Rio will be the fulfilment of a lifelong dream, and the result of a lot of personal sacrifice. “Making the Olympic team is my proudest achievement so far,” she reflects. “It's been something I’ve dreamt of from a very young age; ever since I used to watch my heroes compete for their country on the television at home. Since then it's been something I have wanted to do. And I have worked hard to make it happen so it feels special knowing I have earned it.
“I moved away from home in order to further my swimming career. That has come with a lot of personal challenges and I'm proud of how far I’ve come and how much I’ve grown to get to where I am today.”
In 2014 she made her mark at the Commonwealth Games, winning no less than four gold medals and two bronzes, suggesting that she will be a force to be reckoned with in Rio.
Making the Olympics has been an overwhelming experience. I knew I could do it if I worked hard enough for.Emma McKeon Australia
Emma’s participation at the 2016 Games will be very much a family affair. She is coached by dad Ron, while her brother, David, who made his Olympic debut at London 2012 in the 400m freestyle, has also been selected for the Australian team. “My dad always has valuable advice to give me in many areas of my life, including swimming. I'm lucky I get to learn from him every day and have that amazing support in my life,” she enthuses.
“Making the Olympics has been an overwhelming experience. I knew I could do it if I worked hard enough for. The fact that my brother is going to be competing in Rio too makes it even more special. It's definitely not something that happens very often and to be able to share the experience of going to the biggest sporting event in the world together, I'm sure will be amazing.
“I'm trying to stay relaxed about it, but without losing my excitement. That's what is helping me work hard every day in training. I’m not getting too stressed about competing at that level. I'm just super excited to get on the plane and head over to Rio now.”
Due to compete in five events – the 200m freestyle, the 100m butterfly, the 4x100m freestyle relay, the 4x200m freestyle relay and the 4x100m medley relay – Emma has set herself some very clear targets. “My objective in Rio is to swim faster than I did at the trials, and not think too much about the outcome. Everyone I have spoken to about the Olympics says it is one of the best experiences of their life, so I want to make sure I don't get too overwhelmed and that I really just enjoy it all.”