health

Sport on Saturdays: Six events. Six medals. Meet the Next Big Thing in Australian swimming.

Emma McKeon with Bronte Baratt after winning the gold medal in the freestyle relay (image from Emma’s Instagram)

By NATALIA HAWK

Tomorrow is the last day of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Everything will come to an official wrap on Sunday the 3rd of August, after 11 days of competition across 22 sports.

And so far, our Aussies have been absolutely killing it.

We’ve currently managed to win 40 gold medals, 40 silver and 44 bronze. For the mathematically challenged amongst us, that’s 124 all up – which puts us in second place out of the medal tally, right behind England.

One of the major contributors to  these medal wins is 20-year-old Emma McKeon from Wollongong. She’s one of our Aussie swimmers, and pegged by experts to be the Next Big Thing in the swimming world.

During the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Emma competed in six events, and won herself six medals – four gold, two bronze. Along with the rest of the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay team, she also managed to break a world record.

And it’s only her first Commonwealth Games.

It makes sense that Emma has done so well – after all, swimming is in her blood. Her brother, David McKeon, is also on the Australian swim team and also competing at the same Commonwealth Games – so far, he’s won a silver medal in the 400m relay. The McKeon parents have both been on the Australian swim team and have swum in the Olympics and at the Commonwealth Games; they now own a swim school and Emma’s dad, Ron, coaches her.

Before she headed off to the Games, I sat down with Emma and she told me a bit about her swimming history – and what it’s like to grow up in a family that is so involved with swimming.

Here is Emma’s story:

I have been swimming my whole life. My parents own a swim school and know how important it is to learn to swim, so I started in swimming lessons, and enjoyed being in the water from such a young age that I have been swimming ever since.

Alicia Coutts, Emma McKeon, Brittany Elmslie and Bronte Baratt after winning the freestyle relay

I started competitive swimming through my school carnivals and through swimming club, and progressed from there. I love how I get to meet so many people through swimming – I have made some of my best friends through swimming and get to travel around the world with them for swimming now. Everyone on the Australian swim team is good friends. We are competitive, and most of us do compete against each other, but that’s only in the pool. Outside of the pool, it’s back to being friends.

Unfortunately, I missed out on the London Olympic team in 2012, and that was challenging for me – especially because two of my training partners, Jarrod Poort and my brother David, made it. But I think that really made me realise that swimming was what I really wanted to do, and how much I do enjoy it.

I made my first Commonwealth Games team this year, and that has been the highlight of my career so far.

Before the games, I’ve been working a lot on my fitness as I have several races in one day, and I need to be able to perform in them and recover quickly from them. I train twice most days and do dryland sessions twice or three times per week, but as I get closer to competition the intensity and km’s get less and less. I also had a camp in Thredbo with my squad where a few hikes were added in my week of training, which I think made me fitter.

I’ll be swimming in the 200m freestyle, 100m freestyle, 100m butterfly, 4x200m freestyle relay and 4x100m freestyle relay. My brother is over here too. I’m excited to watch him race as well. Hopefully I will be able to watch, since he is the race before mine.

Neither of us have any pressure coming from my family. The only pressure I have is any that I put on myself. My family only want us to enjoy what we are doing.

Success in any sport or in anything in general really is easiest if you enjoy what you’re doing and don’t take it too seriously. People may say that all the time, but once you actually do it, it’s easier to realise.

Keep an eye on Emma. We can’t wait to see what she does from here.

And in other sports news from the week…

– Eric Hollingsworth, head coach of Athletics Australia, has been suspended and is set to be sent home from the Commonwealth Games after he criticised athletics superstar Sally Pearson. Pearson and Hollingsworth have butted heads since March, when he criticised her performance after she won silver during a race in Poland.

Earlier this week, Hollingsworth posted a media release which defended some of his actions towards Pearson in the past. He also wrote that Pearson set ” a bad example to the entire team” by opting to take a race in London rather than taking part in the team camp ahead of the Commonwealth Games.

David Grace QC, the President of Athletics Australia, followed up with a statement confirming that Hollingsworth had been suspended: “Athletics Australia is bitterly disappointed that Eric Hollingsworth has chosen to make a statement to the media when our focus should be on wholly on supporting our athletes’ performance… He acted without the authority of Athletics Australia and in contravention of the specific instructions of the chief executive officer.”
Have you seen anything in the sporting world or in the Commonwealth Games that you’d like to talk about?
Light blue and pink butterfly illustration. You click, we help. Shooting star illustration.

Mamamia is funding 100 girls in school, every day.

So just by spending time with Mamamia, you’re helping educate girls, which is the best tool to lift them out of poverty.

Thanks for helping!

Light blue and pink butterfly illustration. Girl with pigtails sitting at desk writing in notebook. Row of four books.
Three hands holding books
00:00 / ???