Tokyo Olympic hopeful Kaylee McKeown has confirmed her rich vein of form by claiming a 200 metres backstroke short-course world record at the virtual Australian

Davies

A goggles-wearing swimmer sits in her lane after winning a race at the Australian national titles.

Tokyo Olympic hopeful Kaylee McKeown has confirmed her rich vein of form by claiming a 200 metres backstroke short-course world record at the virtual Australian national championships in Brisbane.

Key points:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic forced this year’s Australian national short course swimming titles to be held as a virtual event
  • Swimmers are competing simultaneously at venues in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Hobart
  • World championship 200m backstroke silver medallist Kaylee McKeown showed her strength in the event, breaking the short course world record in Brisbane

The teenager clocked one minute 58.94 seconds on Friday to take nearly half a second off Hungarian Katinka Hosszu’s 2014 mark (1:59.23).

“Short course is something we don’t get to do very often, so I was excited to see what I could put up after some solid training this year,” said 19-year-old McKeown.

“I headed over to my teammates and my coach and they said, ‘You just got a world-record!’, and I was like, ‘What?’ I didn’t actually know till a few minutes later.”

Australia’s national short-course swimming championships were moved to a virtual platform this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The titles began on Thursday and will run until Sunday, with swimmers competing simultaneously in Sydney (Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre), Melbourne (Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre), Brisbane (Chandler), Perth (Perth Superdrome) and Hobart (Hobart Aquatic Centre).

McKeown’s two closest challengers were in the same pool, with Minna Atherton stopping the clock in 2:03.64 and Jessica Unicomb registering a time of 2:07.07 in Brisbane.

But the next three on the top times list were Olivia Lefoe, Sophie Caldwell and Ashley Weill — all swimming in Melbourne.

In long-course meets, McKeown won gold in the 50m, silver in the 100m and bronze in the 200m backstroke at the 2018 Youth Olympics before claiming a senior world championship silver in the 200m in Gwangju last year.

She swam the seventh-fastest 200m (2:05.83) and ninth-fastest 100m (58.62) of all time in January before the COVID-19 pandemic put her season on hold.

She returned to improve her personal bests in the 100m to 58.11 and the 200m to 2:04.49 to take the Australian records in Brisbane earlier this month.

The health crisis also forced the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics by 12 months, but that has not diminished McKeown’s determination to earn a place at the biggest swimming meet of them all.

“In Australia, we have some of the top women in the world racing in my events, so it’s tough,” she told the Olympic website last month.

“But being able to go to the Olympic Games is what I’ve been dreaming of.”

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