National Sports

Swimming-Magic McKeown swims second fastest 200m backstroke at Olympic trials

Fukuoka 2023 World Aquatics Championships

MELBOURNE (Reuters) -Olympic champion Kaylee McKeown missed her 200 metres backstroke world record but swam the second fastest time in history at Australia’s Olympic trials on Thursday in a boost for her title defence at Paris.

Two nights after falling just short of her 100m world record, the brilliant 22-year-old clocked two minutes 3.30 seconds at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre, 0.16 seconds off her best (2:03.14) at last year’s state championships.

McKeown, who will also defend her 100m backstroke title in Paris, was disappointed to miss the 100m world record on the night but had no regrets about the 200m.

“I was quite nervous. I really just wanted to enjoy tonight so I’m glad you could see it on camera,” she said pool-side.

No-one threatened McKeown in the 200m but 17-year-old runner-up Jaclyn Barclay gave a glimpse of her promise as she booked her first Games appearance.

Eight months after giving birth, 32-year-old Emily Seebohm was fifth in the final, missing the chance to qualify for a fifth Games three years after taking the bronze in Tokyo.

Former Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers won the 100m freestyle final in 47.75 seconds, well short of his 47.08 best but enough to bid for a third successive medal in the event at Paris.

Chalmers, who took gold at the 2016 Rio Games and silver behind Caeleb Dressel at Tokyo, topped the world podium in Fukuoka last year but may need to raise his game to beat rivals Pan Zhanle and David Popivici in Paris.

Second behind Chalmers, William Yang took the other 100m berth after a personal best 48.08.

TITMUS WINS AGAIN

A night after tearing the 200m freestyle world record from Mollie O’Callaghan’s grasp, Ariarne Titmus returned to the pool with her social media accounts shut down to focus on the 800m freestyle, an event she claimed silver in behind Katie Ledecky at Tokyo.

Titmus won the final in 8:14.06, again leading runner-up Lani Pallister to the wall in a repeat of the 400m.

Titmus’s time was within half a second of her personal best (8:13.59) but the Olympic 200 and 400m champion was unimpressed with her swim and thought her coach Dean Boxall might also be.

“He actually said to me, ‘Don’t be a small cat’. And I think in that race, if you get what I’m saying, I’m a small cat,” she said.

That followed world silver medallist Liz Dekkers qualifying for the 200m butterfly and her first Games, three years after freezing with nerves on the starting block at Australia’s trials for Tokyo.

Dekkers won the Brisbane final in 2:06.01, nearly a second better than the second qualifier, Abbey Connor.

“It was really rough at first,” 20-year-old Dekkers said of the Tokyo miss.

“But I think it gave me the drive I needed to actually be a better swimmer. I think I would definitely not be here if that hadn’t happened three years ago.”

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Ed Osmond)

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