2022 Swammy Awards: Oceanic Female Swimmer of the Year – Kaylee McKeown

To see all of our 2022 Swammy Awards, click here.


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.”

Honorable Mentions

  • 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.

Previous Winners:

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8 months ago

Lol you guys have Arnie as Oceanian swimmer of the year on ur Instagram

8 months ago

She win 200 im and 200 back in Paris

Nick the biased aussie
Reply to  Swimfast2
8 months ago

I’d love to see her come away with 6 medals.
100/200 back
200/400 IM
4×100 medley relay
4×100 mixed medley relay

Reply to  Nick the biased aussie
8 months ago

400 im for summer and 100 back for regan

Reply to  Nick the biased aussie
8 months ago

Have you seen the schedule? The 100 back/400 IM double isn’t gonna happen.

Obese Legend
8 months ago

Titmus’ results were more impressive, setting an individual world record and carrying the whole team to a relay world record. And these are the only two LC world records set this year on the women’s side. However she didn’t race too much throughout the calendar year.
On the opposite, McKeown’s times were off her best this year, but she showed up every meet and won golds every meet, showing her consistency.
I think it can go either way, depending on your criteria for choosing the award winner.

8 months ago

Titmus, WR, no 1 ranking in the 200 & 400 & no 2 ranking in the 800. Swam fastest relay split to help Australia win 4×200 relay at the Commonwealth games.
Pretty awesome for someone having an off year.

Reply to  Robbos
8 months ago

I’m not sure it was an off year for her.

Reply to  Robbos
8 months ago

I wouldn’t call it an off year for her.

Reply to  Robbos
8 months ago

Not an “off” year but rather a lightly-raced one ! Respect her decision and the reality that WAQ rendered this year’s racing calendar an almighty mess but I will also pay credit to those who DID turn up and deliver at all their “majors”. With that in mind, I think the final call being between two who did so (MOC & McKeown) is justified.

Awsi Dooger
Reply to  Robbos
8 months ago

I think Titmus lost this in the announcer’s booth. The way recency has dominated these selections, all Titmus had to do was show up in Melbourne and win the 400 above Pallister along with gold or silver at 200.

Regardless, who would have believed 12 months ago that Ledecky could lose her 400 world record yet be named AP Athlete of the Year based largely on short course, while the swimmer who broke that 400 record is down the list in her own country.

Reply to  Awsi Dooger
8 months ago

For better or worse; Titmus CHOSE to only attend one of the 3 “majors” that she could have attended and that was not a World level event, nor did she choose to dip her toes in the SC pool.

Whilst Ledecky also chose to only attend one “major”; it was Worlds and she cleaned up all in all her individual events and whilst she did not attend SC Worlds, she did venture into the SC World Cup and rewrote some records. To me, that reads a clear Adv Ledecky.

In a poorer year for AUS women, Titmus may have walked it in but she was up against 3 swimmers who arguably had more “impactful” years.

8 months ago

MOC with 20 medals this year, incredible!

8 months ago

This one was such a toss up. Could have gone to any of the 4 but I think the top 2 were correct.

Kaylee has said this whole year that it’s a building year and not to expect Tokyo times from her… if that’s true then her potential for Paris is crazy.

Reply to  Sub13
8 months ago

Agree with that this one was definitely a toss-up and also the final call should’ve been McKeown v MOC. No slighting the others but in a year that many played “pick and choose” with their appearances (aided and abetted by WAQ bumbling); both McKeown and MOC fronted up for all 3 of their “majors”.

My call would actually have been MOC but in all honesty, there’s little if anything to separate them and MOC may also be a serious nominee for Female Breakout Performer. With regards to World Rankings/times being used as the decider; I do think that it needs to be acknowledged that McKeown did not swim 400IM internationally and only swam 200IM/200BK at LC Worlds. Granted, you will… Read more »

Springfield's #1 Athlete
Reply to  commonwombat
8 months ago

The reasoning given here was valid, but I do stand with my analysis from the main post. My biggest slight with McKeown was abandoning the 100 back at LC Worlds, where she could’ve won gold for a predictable silver in the 200IM.
Also she was worse this year than 2021, but so was Smith/Masse, which is to be expected. MOC had timing in her favour this year, that much is true, and it is yet another time where Sjostrom would’ve needed to swim just a bit nearer her best to finally be a 100 free World/Olympic champion, but alas.
MOC beat the World Record holder and the Olympic champion and was unheaded in her prime event, McKeown handled… Read more »

Reply to  Springfield's #1 Athlete
8 months ago

I agree as regards the “mis-call” re events at Worlds AND her IM prospects going forward; hence my comment regarding reassessing events going forwards. However, if you were going to tinker/experiment with one’s program then this was the year to do so. Also think that the 100back would NOT have been any “gimme” at Worlds. For whatever reasons, McKeown’s back never really “fired” this year; she had sufficient MOE at 200 but don’t think she had any at 100.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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