Australian teenager Kaylee McKeown broke the women's 100m backstroke world record on Sunday ahead of the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. She finished the race in 57.45 seconds.
The 19-year-old, who has had a sensational 2021, swam a blistering race to go past American rival Regan Smith's all-time record of 57.57s. Smith's record was set at the 2019 world championships.
Kaylee McKeown dedicated the record-breaking win to her father, who died last year. The win right before the Tokyo Olympics will be a big boost for her. Speaking to AFP after the race, Kaylee said:
"I just can't believe it. I just wanted to come in tonight and blow out the cobwebs. It's been a huge year for me and my family. It's been 10 months since my dad passed today. So with that behind me and doing that, I think he would be very proud."
McKeown's father, Sholto, died last August and McKeown said that drove her to succeed. ABC News quoted Kaylee as saying:
"Well, I guess with COVID and the passing of my dad in August last year, it's been a huge, huge build-up to these trials and you know I have turned it into a bit of a hunger and motivation behind me."
Kaylee McKeown's Tokyo Olympics dream comes true
The three-time world aquatic championship silver medalist was close to breaking the world record in May. She swam within 0.06 seconds of the world record in Sydney but had no plans of doing so at the trials.
ABC News quoted Kaylee McKeown further:
"To finally get me onto that Tokyo Olympic team is a dream come true, it really is. I wouldn't say [the record] was a goal, I'm more of a process-oriented person and it just so happened that I nailed all those little pin-points that we're going for."
Kaylee McKeown will be a serious contender for multiple gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics. She is also expected to make the cut in the 200m backstroke. The teenage swimmer recently set the fourth-fastest time in history in the 200m backstroke.
Kaylee McKeown will also be the favorite in the 200m Individual Medley, where she has the world's best time this season.
In addition to Kaylee McKeown, veteran swimmer Emily Seebohm touched the wall in 58.59s to finish second and book the Tokyo Olympics berth. This will be her fourth Summer Olympics.
Australia won ten medals in swimming at the 2016 Rio Olympics, matching their feat from London four years earlier.