Triple Olympic champion Kaylee McKeown has revealed she swam through pain to achieve her Tokyo heroics, having torn cartilage in her shoulder on the eve of the Games.
McKeown, who won the 100m and 200m backstroke and was a member of the gold medal-winning medley relay team in Tokyo, tore the labrum in her shoulder in a gym session at the Australian swim teamâ€™s pre-departure camp in Cairns just ahead of the Olympics.
But she â€œjust put up with the painâ€ and came away from Tokyo with four medals â€” including three gold â€” in an Olympic debut that now seems miraculous.
â€œI tore the labrum in my left shoulder â€¦ weâ€™ve come to the conclusion that I did it here in Cairns and just put up with the pain,â€ McKeown said after returning to the far north Queensland city for a Speedo swim clinic with local juniors.
â€œHonestly it didnâ€™t affect my Olympics at all, I was in quite a bit of pain, especially the last two days heading into the 200m backstroke and the relay but there wasnâ€™t anything I could do to make it better, so there was no point complaining about it.â€
She is still dealing with the injury though and a 2022 program she still hopes will include both the world championships and Commonwealth Games could be affected, with McKeown set to miss Decemberâ€™s Queensland state championships as she is relegated to kick sets until the end of the year.
After consulting with Australian swim team doctor Luke Eggleston, McKeown rejected a surgical option to repair the damage.
â€œSurgery was an option that was put on the table but Iâ€™ve had the best of the best tell me thatâ€™s not the best option to go with because it wonâ€™t be the best thing with my stroke,â€ McKeown said.
â€œSo itâ€™s a matter of getting it strong again and getting it ready to go.â€
Instead, rest and a gradual rebuild of strength will be the course of action McKeown takes before getting back into full training ahead of trials for the world championships and Commonwealth Games next year.
That will happen on the Sunshine Coast, where McKeown has decided to stay, despite the move of her former coach Chris Mooney to Bond University on the Gold Coast.
The 20-year-old spent a few sessions with Mooney and also trialled with Michael Bohl on the Gold Coast and Dean Boxall in Brisbane before deciding to stay at the University of Sunshine Coast where Mick Palfrey will take over from Mooney.
â€œIâ€™ve decided to stay on the Sunshine Coast, Iâ€™m nursing a bit of a shoulder injury at the moment, so the best team for me is the people who know my body and thatâ€™s been a huge part of my decision to stay there with Mick Palfrey,â€ McKeown said.
â€œMooney and I left things on really good terms obviously, heâ€™s taken me to the highest level pretty much any sport can get to, so thereâ€™s never going to be bad blood there and heâ€™s said heâ€™s going to welcome me with open arms whenever, so thatâ€™s also really good on his behalf.â€
Palfrey arrives from Western Australia with Olympians Brianna Throssel and Tamsin Cook to take on the University of Sunshine Coast squad, ensuring an elite training atmosphere will remain despite the departure of Mooney.
â€œIâ€™m really looking forward to having a group that wants the same thing – chasing that Olympic dream and being on the international stage,â€ McKeown said.
But she left the door open for a possible reunification with her former coach or another move in the future if it was best for her swimming.
â€œWeâ€™ve had really good conversations and I like Mickâ€™s work and the way he goes about the sessions, so Iâ€™m really confident heâ€™ll take me where I want to get to,â€ she said.
â€œWhether thatâ€™s a two-year thing, a three-year thing or beyond that, Iâ€™m not sure.â€