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'I'm so proud of you': Cate Campbell summed up as she celebrates McKeon beating her to gold

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30th July, 2021
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Emma McKeon won her first ever individual gold medal and eighth medal in all with an Olympic record swim in the 100m freestyle, while compatriot Cate Campbell took bronze and told McKeon “I’m so proud of you” moments after hitting the wall.

McKeon broke the Olympic record to become the fifth Australian woman to get eight Olympic Games medals, while Campbell’s was her seventh, and her second in an individual event. McKeon joins Dawn Fraser, Petria Thomas and Susie O’Neill on eight medals, with only Ian Thorpe and Leisel Jones – who were commentating on the race – above them on nine each.

It also means McKeon is the first athlete at this Games to get four medals so far having won two bronze and a relay gold.

“It doesn’t feel real, I can just feel my emotions bubbling up,” said McKeon, whose family owns and runs a successful swim school in Wollongong, NSW. Her mum dad and uncle all represented Australia in the pool, while her brother David was on the teams for London and Rio.

“It’s impossible to describe – there were tears and cheers,” said her mum Susie after watching from lockdown at home, sharing the expeience with wide spread family members on Zoom.

“David was on this side of the fence for the first time and he was pacing up and down in the backyard and feeling quite sick. I said now you know how we feel as spectators!”

McKeon’s time of 51.96 beat the Olympic record she set in the heats and was the second fastest of all time. World record holder Sarah Sjoestroem set that mark at 51.17 in 2017 and finished fifth on Friday. In an exceptionally high quality race, the top five times would have won every other Olympic final in history.

McKeon paid tribute to her veteran coach Michael Bohl.

“I honestly wouldn’t be here without him,” McKeon said.

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“He’s helped me so much through personal things and swimming – I couldn’t have done it wthout him.”

McKeon also needed to take a big leap in belief, having been on the podium many times before without having an anthem played for her alone.

“I made a big change and worked a lot with my psychologist,” McKeon revealed.

“Time and time again I show myself how tough I can be. I wouldn’t be that tough athlete without all the support behind me.”

The pair had qualified first and third fastest and were split by Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey.

Only three Australian women had won this event – Fanny Durack (1912), Dawn Fraser (1956, 1960 and 1964) and Jodie Henry (2004).

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Campbell, who carried the Australian flag alongside Patty Mills in the opening ceremony, was overcome by emotion as she reflected on her journey through four Olympic Games.

She had been distraught five years ago after missing gold in this event as an overwhelming favourite, but today she poured goodwill on her teammate, telling her of her pride while they were still in the water, then expanding on it afterwards.

“This my fourth Olympics and only my second individual medal,” Campbell said.

“It honestly means the world to me.

“I’m so happy for Emma, seeing her get up. I’m so happy there’s going to be an Australian national anthem echoing through this stadium and I’m so glad that I get to be on the podium and share that moment with her.”

Campbell was then reduced to tears as she spoke of her career at the top of world swimming.

“I really wanted to put forward my best performance and that pretty much is a season-best,” she said.

“To do that in an Olympic final off a very challenging year that I’ve had, I’m really happy.

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“It’s been a really long journey to get here. I’m incredibly proud of that performance. These aren’t sad tears at all. I’m so thrilled and I just want to thank everyone who stood by me and got me to this point.”

Emily Seebohm was fastest through the 200m backstroke semis, with 100m winner Kaylee McKeown fifth.

“I’m really happy with that I wanted to put my best foot forward this morning,” said Seebohm.

Earlier Tatjana Schoenmaker broke the world record with to win the 200m breaststroke gold medal.

The South African could barely believe her achievement and she was warmly congratulated by silver medallist Lilly King and bronze medallist Annie Lazor, who finished second and third.

Schoenmaker finished in 2:18.95, 0.97 seconds ahead of King.

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American superstar Caeleb Dressel, who beat Kyle Chalmers in the 100m freestyle final, just missed a world record in qualifying fastest for the 100m butterfly final with 49.71. Aussie Matt Temple also went through, qualifying sixth in a time of 51.12 seconds.

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