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Emma McKeon becomes most successful Commonwealth athlete

Australian swimmer reflects on how far she has come since her first Games
Emma McKeon of Team Australia celebrates after winning gold in the women’s 50m freestyle final in Birmingham on Sunday.
Emma McKeon of Team Australia celebrates after winning gold in the women’s 50m freestyle final in Birmingham on Sunday.
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Reuters, AP/PTI   |   Birmingham   |   Published 02.08.22, 04:14 AM

Australian swimmer Emma McKeon became the Commonwealth Games’ most successful athlete during a history-making night in the pool.

The 28-year-old McKeon claimed her 11th career gold medal, spread across editions in Glasgow, the Gold Coast and Birmingham, to set a new Commonwealth Games mark for most titles.


It was her third gold in Birmingham, with the other two coming in the 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m mixed relays.

Australian swimming celebrated again with a world record later Sunday when Maddie Wilson, Kiah Helverton, Mollie O’Callaghan and Ariarne Titmus won the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay in 7 minutes, 39.29 seconds.

Titmus, a double Olympic gold medalist in Tokyo last year, anchored the relay with a time of 1:52.82, the quickest split in a 4x200m relay in history. The 21-year-old Titmus touched the wall more than 12 seconds in front of the silver medalists Canada, with England another five seconds behind in third.

McKeon’s gold was part of an Australian medal sweep in the women’s 50 free-style.

She won in a time of 23.99 seconds, with teammates Meg Harris taking silver and Shayna Jack claiming the bronze.

With McKeon’s parents Ron and Susie, both former international swimmers, sitting in the stands, the five-time Olympic gold medalist surpassed fellow Aussie swimmers Ian Thorpe, Susie O’Neill and Leisel Jones for most career golds at the quadrennial event.

“It is a fun event for me, the 50. I feel like I am a lot more relaxed this year than last year,” McKeon said. “I have not done as much work as I had this time last year but the place I am in mentally is showing in my performances.

“It makes me reflect on the last eight years since my first Commonwealth Games and I can see how far I’ve come as a person and an athlete.”

McKeon is within range of setting another record in Birmingham. She has now won 16 Commonwealth Games medals in total a n d h a s another four races on her programme.

South African Chad le Clos equalled the current Commonwealth record total of 18 medals earlier on Sunday — a decade after causing one of the great Olympic upsets in London.

The South African swimmer had timed his finish to perfection in the 200m butterfly in the 2012 Olympics to beat American superstar Michael Phelps by .05 seconds.

Bidding to celebrate the milestone with a golden success in the same event in Birmingham, the 30-year-old le Clos led for most of the race but was reeled in late by New Zealander Lewis Clareburt.

The silver medal was enough for Le Clos to join shooters Michael Gault and Phil Adams in a three-way tie for most career medals at the Games, although McKeon is closing rapidly on the trio.

“I’m gutted not to have won, I’ll be honest,” said Le Clos, adding he plans to be top the podium before the end of the Games. “I would’ve cut my finger off to win tonight.

“Fair play to Lewis, he had a great race. He said he watched me growing up and I said, ‘man, did you have to do it on my day?” 

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