2022 OCEANIAN FEMALE SWIMMER OF THE YEAR: KAYLEE MCKEOWN, AUSTRALIA
Picking this year’s winner was no easy feat as four Australian women had legitimate cases to claim the top Oceanic honor.
Ariarne Titmus started 2022 off with a bang by becoming the first swimmer to break one of Katie Ledecky’s world records at the Australian Championships in May. Emma McKeon’s resurgence earlier this month at Short Course Worlds was highlighted by the fastest SCM 50 freestyle, 100 free, and 100 fly relay splits in history. In the end, though, it came down to two swimmers — Kaylee McKeown and Mollie O’Callaghan — who put up impressive performances at all three major international meets this year (Worlds, Commonwealth Games, and Short Course Worlds).
Both McKeown and O’Callaghan took home an LCM world title from Budapest this summer. O’Callaghan won more total medals at major meets this year (20), but McKeown brought home more individual titles (five). Ultimately, the deciding factor was the current world rankings, where McKeown has an edge: She posted top-two times this year in her best four events (100 backstroke, 200 back, 200 IM, and 400 IM) while O’Callaghan clocked top-10 times in her best four events (100 free, 200 free, 100 back, and 200 back).
McKeown vs. O’Callaghan, World Rankings in Top Four Events (LCM)
|Event||McKeown’s World Ranking in 2022||O’Callaghan’s World Ranking in 2022||Event|
|100 back||#2||#1||100 free|
|200 back||#1||#2||200 free|
|200 IM||#2||#7||100 back|
|400 IM||#2||#10||200 back|
McKeown’s slight superiority in her third- and fourth-best events clinched her the Swammy Award for Oceanic Female Swimmer of the Year.
Earlier this month, McKeown made history as the second woman to concurrently hold Olympic, World, Commonwealth, and Short Course World titles in the same event (Titmus was the first in the 400 free). McKeown accomplished the feat in the 200 back, but she just might have done it in the 100 back as well if it weren’t for a scratch at Worlds, where the world record holder opted to focus instead on the 200 IM.
McKeown’s string of podium finishes in the 200 IM this year offered further proof that she’s not just a backstroke specialist. The 21-year-old Aussie earned silver at Worlds and Commonwealth Games before taking bronze at Short Course Worlds, setting a national record and becoming the first short-course IM medalist from her country since 2006. She finished the year with 15 medals in total across those three major meets, including eight golds.
McKeown was also the second-fastest performer this year in the 400 IM, where she went 4:31.74 at May’s Australian Championships. That time was just a few tenths of a second slower than Stephanie Rice’s super-suited national record from 2008.
After winning three gold medals at last summer’s Tokyo Olympics, McKeown could have succumbed to complacency. But if 2022 was any indication, her success has only sparked a new hunger to stay on top of the swimming world. She didn’t shy away from new challenges or tough competitions during a hectic schedule this year.
“I was the chaser (before Tokyo)… and now I have all these girls wanting to chase me,” McKeown said. “I just have to put myself back in that position and realize, hey, just because I’ve done this in my career, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be given to me the next time I step up to do it.”
- Mollie O’Callaghan (AUS) – The 18-year-old phenom had a year to remember, racking up 20 medals at Worlds, Commonwealth Games, and Short Course Worlds, including 11 golds. She was a part of five Aussie relay teams that broke world records, tying countrywoman Madison Wilson for most current world records among women. O’Callaghan helped set new LCM world standards in the 4×100 free relay at Worlds with a 52.03 anchor and in the 4×200 free relay with a 1:54.80 split. At Short Course Worlds, she added three more SCM world records in the 4×100 free relay (52.19 leadoff), 4×200 free relay (1:52.83 split), and 4×50 medley relay (25.49 leadoff).
- Ariarne Titmus (AUS) – Titmus finally caught up to Ledecky in the 400 free, blazing a 3:56.40 in May to become the first swimmer to take down one of her world records. She skipped both Worlds and Short Course Worlds this year, citing a long-term approach focused on the Paris 2024 Olympics. At her lone major international meet of the year, the Commonwealth Games, Titmus swept the 200 free (1:53.89), 400 free (3:58.06), and 800 free (8:13.59) while also helping Australia’s 4×200 free relay squad set a new world record with her 1:52.82 anchor.
- Emma McKeon (AUS) – Like Titmus, McKeon boasts an impressive 2022 resume hampered only by the fact that she chose to skip the biggest meet of the year (long-course Worlds). At the Commonwealth Games, she secured three individual victories in the 50 free and 50 fly while also taking silver in the 100 fly and bronze in the 100 free. The 28-year-old McKeon capped her year with short-course world titles in the 50 free and 100 free, lowering Championship records in each along the way. In Melbourne, she also helped Australia’s 4×100 free relay and 4×50 medley relay teams set world records as she recorded three different splits that rank as the fastest in history.
- 2022 – Kaylee McKeown, Australia
- 2021 – Emma McKeon, Australia
- 2020 – Kaylee McKeown, Australia
- 2019 – Ariarne Titmus, Australia
- 2018 – Ariarne Titmus, Australia
- 2017 – Emily Seebohm, Australia
- 2016 – Cate Campbell, Australia
- 2015 – Emily Seebohm, Australia
- 2014 – Cate Campbell, Australia
- 2013 – Cate Campbell, Australia