Australia’s Emma McKeon added a second gold medal to her 2020 Olympics haul with a memorable swim in the women’s 100m freestyle final at the Tokyo Games, as compatriot Cate Campbell won bronze to add to her substantial career tally.
This race has a special place in Australia’s Olympic folklore. It was won on three consecutive occasions by the legendary Dawn Fraser – a feat that no other swimmer, male or female, has managed before or since. Fraser’s last win came at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo; in the subsequent half-century, just one Australian woman has won the two lap dash, Jodie Henry in 2004.
But on Friday, back where Fraser’s winning streak concluded, McKeon provided another golden moment. The 27-year-old was the fastest out of the blocks, and touched first at the turn. Despite tough competition from Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey in the race to the wall, McKeon emerged triumphant – and with the Olympic record, just the second woman ever to swim sub-52 seconds in the event.
“Honestly I still can’t believe it,” McKeon said after the race. “I can’t believe that I just won a gold medal. I think it will take a bit to sink in. Probably once I get to Bolhy [coach Michael Bohl] the emotion will really come out.”
Despite an illustrious history with the Dolphins, including two Olympic relay gold medals, and four relay world championships, victory on Friday was the first time McKeon had stood on the top step of the podium in an individual race at international level.
“I’ve never actually won at an Olympics individual or worlds individual,” she said. “So to see that one next to my name – I didn’t even look at my time, I just looked at the place. That’s what the Olympics is about – getting your name on the wall, and that gold medal. I’ve always been a proud member of all the relays – and we’ve had such success in that – but to get that gold individually, I’m very proud and very honoured.”
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Campbell – competing in her fourth Olympics – finished just behind silver medallist Haughey.
“You might not be able to see because of the mask, but my emotions are pretty high at the moment – I’m so so pleased with that performance,” said Campbell, who made her Olympic debut in Beijing 13 years ago. Despite relay gold medals at every subsequent Olympics, including in Tokyo, her medal on Friday was her first individual medal since 2008.
“There were understandably quite a few demons knocking at my door this morning when I woke up, but I held them all at bay and I performed when it counted,” she said. “I get to stand on an Olympic podium. The Australian national anthem is going to be echoing through the stadium, and I couldn’t be more proud of my teammate [McKeon]. She deserves absolutely everything that has come her way.”
The victory added to Australia’s growing medal tally at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre. The nation has won one gold medal at the pool each day. Six days, six gold medals. If not a medal rush, then at least a procession. McKeon alone has now won two gold medals and two bronze medals at the Games.
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In the final event of the session, the women’s 200m backstroke, Australia’s Kaylee McKeown and Emily Seebohm both eased into Saturday’s gold medal race. McKeown is favourite for the four-lap discipline after winning the women’s 100m backstroke earlier this week and qualified second-fastest, behind only Canada’s Kylie Masse.
Earlier in the morning, Australia’s Matthew Temple qualified sixth-best for the men’s 200m butterfly final. American Caeleb Dressel set a new Olympic record to qualify fastest in the semi-finals, just 24 hours after he won the men’s 100m freestyle gold.
The swimming continues on Friday night with the final evening of heats at Tokyo 2020. McKeon and Campbell will be back in the pool for the women’s 50m freestyle, while men’s 400m freestyle silver medallist Jack McLoughlin will return for the 1500m. Australia’s relay teams will be in action in both the women’s and men’s 4x100m medley heats.