March Madness might refer to basketball, but Australian swimmer Kaylee McKeown got in the spirit Friday with her world record-breaking swim in the 200-meter backstroke.
The Olympic gold medalist broke the world record in a time of 2 minutes, 3.14 seconds, at the New South Wales State Open Championships in her home country. The previous record was set by Regan Smith with a time of 2:03.35 at the 2019 World Championships.
McKeown had a career-best time of 2:04.28 entering the meet. And, according to McKeown’s older sister Taylor McKeown, the backstroker “was not even rested” for the swim.
While McKeown found it difficult to stay motivated after her successful Tokyo Olympics in 2021, where she won gold in the 100 backstroke, the 200 backstroke and the 4×100 medley relay. But she has “found a new love for the sport,” she said after the race.
“After the Olympics I found it hard to get up behind the blocks again,” McKeown told The Advertiser. “… I found a new love for the sport and it just goes to show that a happy swimmer is a fast swimmer. I haven’t necessarily changed anything in my program or training wise. It’s just that I’m happier.”
That shined through even though she didn’t have her typical level of preparation.
“The race was actually swum 20 minutes earlier than it was scheduled on the time line – I was so rushed,” McKeown said. “I actually like sitting in marshaling and kind of gathering my thoughts before my race, but I had no time for that… So I just pulled up my straps and went for it really.”