'I'm excited for that': McKeon confirms final Olympic campaign

‘I’m excited for that’: McKeon confirms final Olympic campaign

Emma McKeon, Australia’s greatest Olympian, has confirmed the Paris Games will be her final Olympic campaign.

The 29-year-old from Wollongong confirmed that to Olympics.com for a story that ran during the Australian swimming championships, taking place on the Gold Coast this week.

It’s not a surprise, given she will be 34 when the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics roll around, but the confirmation is still significant due to her legendary status and the fact that until speaking to Olympics.com she had not put an end date on her career.

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“I think swimming will always be a part of my life and has been for my whole life so far, but this will definitely be my last Olympics, so I’m excited for that,” McKeon told Olympics.com.

“Success for me in Paris would be to swim faster than I ever have before.”

Despite being a five-time Olympic gold medallist and an 11-time Olympic medallist, McKeon has been a touch off the pace at the national titles.

In the women’s 100m freestyle final on Wednesday night, the Brisbane-based champion finished third, trailing home Mollie O’Callaghan and Meg Harris with a time of 53.09 seconds.

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She also finished third in the 50m freestyle on Thursday night, losing to Shayna Jack and Harris with a time of 24.46.

McKeon will contest the 50m butterfly final on Friday night and the 100m butterfly final on Saturday night.

To secure selection as an individual swimmer for the Paris Games, taking place across July and August, athletes must finish in the top two at the Olympic trials, to be held in Brisbane from June 10-15.

Swimming Australia also has Olympic qualification times set out for athletes at the trials, which in many cases are stricter than the World Aquatics benchmarks. McKeon is chasing 24.67 in the 50m freestyle, 53.67 in the 100m freestyle and 57.17 in the 100m butterfly.

Whether McKeon finishes in the top two in the freestyle events at the trials is difficult to predict. She’s highly likely to grab a top-two spot in the 100m butterfly, but the depth of Australian women’s freestyle sprinting is mind-blowing.

For a piece marking 100 days to go until the Olympic opening ceremony, which ran on Wednesday, Wide World of Sports included McKeon among Australia’s leading Paris 2024 gold medal contenders.

As Australian swimming great Giaan Rooney said in an interview with Wide World of Sports, “you … don’t ever write Emma off”.

Rooney predicted McKeon to win the 50m freestyle in Paris.

“I’m very honest with myself and I know what I need to do,” McKeon told Olympics.com.

“And I know how hard I have to work and I know how hard I worked leading into Tokyo. And to stay at that level you need to work even harder than that. So I think just knowing that in myself, that’s how I can keep improving.”

McKeon went close to quitting the sport following her astounding Tokyo Games campaign, in which she won gold medals in the 50m and 100m freestyle, the 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley.

“I think post-Tokyo, the thing that kept me going was that I felt like I had more to give, and I felt like I could go faster and do better,” McKeon said.

“So that’s kind of what brought me back to the pool.”

McKeon’s coach, veteran Australian mentor Michael Bohl, told Wide World of Sports that his superstar athlete was a “different person” in the Paris cycle to the Tokyo build-up.

From Bohl’s perspective, her incredible Tokyo campaign and blossoming relationship with Cody Simpson had made her a happier and calmer person, but she was still hungry for success in the pool.

“I would see myself as someone who is, I suppose, calm and well balanced, and I think quite grounded,” McKeon told Olympics.com.

“And I hope to be someone that inspires other people to go after their goals and dreams.”

In Canberra in January, McKeon was named 2024 Young Australian of the Year.

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