Swimming champion Emma McKeon has opened up about how she almost lost motivation to keep training after the 2020 Games were cancelled only to go on and become Australia’s most decorated Olympian.
The 27-year-old won seven medals at Tokyo this year and became just the second female in history to do so in any sport at a singles Olympics.
Taking home four gold medals, three bronze as well as smashing records, the Wollongong-bred swimmer said she always had her eye on the podium.
‘I definitely expected to swim well but I was really just focusing on myself,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
‘I wanted to go over there and win gold but I never really thought about how many medals I would get.’
Emma McKeon became Australia’s most decorated Olympian at the Tokyo Games this year
The 27-year-old has opened up about how she found the motivation to keep training after the event was postponed due to Covid-19
The road to Tokyo was a long one, after the Games were initially postponed from July and August 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Athletes were told just a few months before the global sporting event was postponed for a year, with the news disrupting the lives of many who had trained endlessly for the occasion.
For McKeon, she admitted her ability to stay motivated suffered as a result.
‘It took me a bit of adjusting to get out of that intense focus mood, I wanted to keep training and keep doing everything I could,’ she said.
‘But my coach was really good for me and he knew that I needed to have another year of hard focus and training and said you need to take a break.’
McKeon then spent some downtime at her family’s home in Lake Conjola on the NSW south coast.
‘My motivation did start to go up and down and I started to panic about that,’ she said.
‘But I never took my eye off what I wanted to do at the Olympics.’
With a typical training week consisting of nine two-hour swimming sessions, as well as gym and physio appointments, McKeon said she tends not to stick to a super strict diet, and once confessed her guilty pleasure was chocolate milkshakes.
The swimming champion also shared details on her diet, saying while she makes sure she’s getting enough fuel in, she doesn’t tend to eat too strictly
The Olympic champ took home four gold medals this year and three bronze
McKeon is seen with teammates Bronte Campbell and Meg Harris after winning the 4x100m freestyle relay
Her diet is one full of food that will give her enough energy for a day’s worth of gruelling training sessions, including things like bananas and Weet-bix.
‘I’m not too strict, I don’t not eat things that I want to eat but it’s just about making sure I have enough energy to train at that level that I want to train at,’ she said.
Now enjoying her first bit of down time after a mammoth 90 races over three months, the swimmer is giving herself a well deserved break with her friends and family back home.
In her second Olympic appearance, McKeon took home gold in the 100m freestyle, 50m freestyle, 4x100m freestyle relay and 4x100m medley relay but says her 100m freestyle win was her proudest moment.
‘That was my first individual gold medal,’ she said.
‘I think that’s what I wanted the most, just holding myself together and being able to pull it off, that’s something I’m very proud of and maintaining that belief in myself.’
With a total of now 11 Olympic medals and a handful of records under her belt, the swimming great still says she gets nervous before every race.
‘I’m still very nervous all the time when I’m racing but I’ve learnt to see those nerves as a good thing,’ she said.
‘To me it shows that I care and it shows I know I can do well.
‘My word for the Olympics was ”unwavering” and that’s what I wanted to be with anything that was going on around me.’
With a total of now 11 Olympic medals and a handful of records under her belt, the swimming great still says she gets nervous before every race
McKeon is seen proudly showing off her seven Olympic medals
Unfortunately for the Aussie swimming team, their success was unable to be celebrated with the swimmers shipped straight into hotel quarantine in Darwin following their final events.
McKeon said the first week was the perfect way to catch up on sleep but struggled through the second stint of the 14 days.
Now back at home with her family, the swimmer will have the rest of the year off before she returns to the pool and starts creating a path for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
‘I’m taking this time off to not have an intense focus on my goals, I’ve had that for so long and I need a mental break from that,’ she said.
As well as being a hero in the swimming pool, McKeon is also working to raise awareness about beach safety.
She has thrown her support behind a new Surf Life Saving Australia initiative which helps Aussies find their nearest patrolled beach by scanning a QR code on a Nutri-Grain cereal box.
It came after drownings across Australia rose by 13 per cent as compared to last year.
‘Any drownings are too many drownings,’ she said.
‘Even though I’m a good swimmer, the ocean isn’t a safe place, but I want to be able to have the skills to enjoy it.
‘I need to make sure even I stay safe at the beach and swim at patrolled beaches.’
She has thrown her support behind a new Surf Life Saving Australia initiative which helps Aussies find their nearest patrolled beach by scanning a QR code on a Nutri-Grain cereal box