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Swimmer Kaylee McKeown won gold for her dad

Kamahl Cogdon, July 27, 2021 8:27PM Kids News

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Kaylee McKeown gives a thumbs up after winning the women's 100m backstroke final on day four of the Tokyo Olympic Games. Picture: Getty Images media_cameraKaylee McKeown gives a thumbs up after winning the women's 100m backstroke final on day four of the Tokyo Olympic Games. Picture: Getty Images


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Rising swimming star Kaylee McKeown did Australia proud when she won gold in the 100m backstroke on day four of the Tokyo Olympics.

But there was one special person she was out to make proud with her Olympic record swim: her father Sholto, who died of brain cancer last year.

“I hope you’re proud, and I keep doing you proud,” McKeown said in the moments after her victory at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

Tokyo 2020 Swimming Finals Day 04 media_cameraKaylee McKeown launches into the 100m backstroke final in Tokyo. Picture: Alex Coppel

McKeown, 20, turned in third position at the halfway mark of the race and made her move in the final 30m, finishing ahead of Canada’s Kylie Masse and Regan Smith from the US.

Her time of 57.47sec was an Olympic record and just 0.02 seconds behind the world record time she set in June this year.

Fellow Aussie Emily Seebohm, who is competing in her fourth Olympics, finished the race in fifth place.

Swimming - Olympics: Day 4 media_cameraKaylee McKeown and Emily Seebohm embrace after the 100m backstroke final. Picture: Getty Images

McKeown was so excited by her win she let slip with a swear word during a poolside interview by Channel 7 minutes after the race.

Later an emotional McKeown said the tragic death of her dad in August 2020, just two years after he was diagnosed with brain cancer, motivated her in the pool.

“I know he is with me every step of the way. To touch that wall first, I know he’d be ecstatic*,” she told Channel 7.

Swimming - Olympics: Day 4 media_cameraKaylee McKeown on the podium after receiving her gold medal for the 100m backstroke. Picture: Getty Images

McKeown’s elated* mum, Sharon, and older sister, Taylor, watched the race from Noosa, Queensland, and were also convinced Sholto was watching over the young champ.

“Did you see the little kiss Kaylee blew to Dad at the end of the race?’’ former Olympian Taylor said.

Supplied  Kaylee Mckeown blows a kiss after winning gold in the women's 100m backstroke. media_cameraKaylee Mckeown blows a kiss to her dad, Sholto, after winning gold in the women’s 100m backstroke. Picture: Channel 7

“And what about the way she lifted at the end. That was hard work and a great plan … but it was also Dad. He gave her a little kick up the backside.”

Mum Sharon watched the race cuddling a Boxing Kangaroo mascot which the group named Sholto.

“He (Sholto) will be there watching over her and will be so excited for her,’’ Sharon said.

McKeown still has the 200m backstroke and 4x100m medley relay to come in what is her first Olympic Games.

Supplied Editorial CM270721OLYMPICSMcKeown 1of4 emails media_cameraTaylor and Sharon McKeown celebrate Kaylee’s win with other supporters in Noosa. Picture: Patrick Woods

There were more Aussie medals in the water away from the pool, with Owen Wright claiming bronze in the men’s surfing and Jessica Fox also getting bronze in the kayak slalom event.

“It’s a really special thing and I couldn’t be any prouder … I really felt like I did the Aussies proud today,” Wright, 31, told Channel 7.

Wright, who went through some “really tough times” after suffering a traumatic brain injury* in a 2015 surfing accident, said he hoped his performance inspired other brain injury survivors.

“To all the people that have had really bad brain injuries, I just want to let you know that it’s all possible and don’t give up. Keep striving to get back there.”

media_cameraAustralia’s Owen Wright competes during the men’s surfing bronze medal final at Japan’s Tsurigasaki Beach. Picture: AFP

Fox, 27, became the first Australian to win a medal in kayaking at three consecutive* Olympics when she finished third in the K1 event in Tokyo.

She already has a silver medal from London in 2012 and a bronze from Rio in 2016.

She was hoping to add gold to her collection this time around but she picked up two time penalties on the challenging whitewater course, and these proved the difference between gold and bronze.

Canoe Slalom - Olympics: Day 4 media_cameraJessica Fox shows her disappointment after two time penalties cost her gold in the women’s kayak slalom final on day four of the Tokyo Olympic Games. Picture: Getty Images
media_cameraBut she was all smiles again when presented with her bronze medal. Picture: AFP

“I’m feeling all the emotions, relief to be on the podium,” she said. “A bit of disappointment to not put down the dream run.

“I think there’s a lot to learn from today. It is still an amazing podium to be a part of.”

She said she would put her disappointment behind her and focus on her next event, the C1.

It is the first time a women’s C1 event has been included in the Olympics and Fox is also a strong medal chance here.


  • ecstatic: feeling overwhelming happiness and excitement
  • elated: extremely happy and excited
  • traumatic brain injury: when the brain is damaged by a sudden blow, bump or jolt to the head
  • consecutive: in a row, one after another


Titmus triumph delivers more Olympic gold

Women’s 4x100m freestyle team grabs gold and world record

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  1. What event did Kaylee McKeown win her gold medal for?
  2. Who did Kaylee McKeown hope to make proud with her win?
  3. How many Olympics has Emily Seebohm competed in?
  4. What type of injury did Owen Wright suffering in a surfing accident in 2015?
  5. At how many Olympics has Jessica Fox won a medal for kayaking?


1. Acrostic poem
Create an acrostic poem about Kaylee McKeown, Owen Wright or Jessica Fox. Write the letters of their name down the left side of your page and then write words, phrases or sentences beginning with each letter that describe their Olympic performance, strengths and sporting achievements.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Health and Physical Education; Media Arts

2. Extension
Make an audio recording of your poem, reading it with expression.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Health and Physical Education; Media Arts

I’ve always wanted to know
If you had the opportunity to talk to one of the athletes in this story and ask them five questions, what would you ask them?

Come up with five different questions. Challenge yourself to use different question stems (question opener words) to write your questions, and don’t forget to end with a question mark.

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