Kai Taylor is an Australian 100 and 200 freestyler. He had a meteoric rise in 2023 after only making the 200 free final at trials because of Kyle Cahlmers’ scratch and winning the final. He went on to earn 3 relay medals at Worlds including one Gold.
Taylor is the son of Hayley Lewis, the legendary Australian swimmer best known for her 5 golds and a bronze at the 1990 Commonwealth Games. Lewis computed at 3 Olympic Games (1992–silver, 800 free, bronze, 400 free; 1996–400 free, 15th, 800 free, 13th; 2000–800 free, 13th) and also won the 5k 22 years prior at her final international competition at the 2001 Fukuoka World Championships.
2022 US National Championships (Irvine, California)
Taylor’s meet highlight cam in the 200 free. In prelims, he led the pace early in the final heat but was passed on the 3rd 50 by Kieran Smith and Jake Magahey. He ended up qualifying 8th in 1:48.39. In the final, Taylor was out in a near identical time at the 100 but produced a significantly stronger back half to take 7th in 1:47.50. In Irvine, he also produced solid times of 22.91, 49.24, and 3:52.94 in the 50, 100, and 400 free events respectively; he made B finals in the 400 and 100.
2022 Queensland State Championships (Brisbane, Australia)
Taylor neared his best tile with a 1:48.27 in the 200 free to round out the podium in 3rd behind Elijah Winnington and Sam Short. He was also 3:53.43 in his 400 free and 49.96 in his 100 free.
2023 NSW State Open Championships (Sydney, Australia)
In the 100 free, Taylor had a massive swim, putting him under the elite 49-second barrier. His 48.92 was a best time and good for 3rd. Taylor also had an excellent 1:47.74 200 free, his first time under 1:48 since US Nationals in 2022, and good for another 3rd. In the 400, Taylor was 3:54.62, showing off a solid last 50 of 28.83.
2023 Australian National Championships (Southport, Australia)
Taylor outdueled Kyle Chalmers to claim the top seed into the 200 free finals with a new best time of 1:46.82. Chalmers dropped the final but Taylor still had an elite field to push him in the final. There, he dropped more time to 1:46.65, fending off rising youngster Flynn Southam (1:46.67) and world champion Elijah Winnington (1:47.24). Taylor led Southam in the 100 free prelims with a 48.65 to Southam’s 48.72 while Chalmers lurked with a 49.15. In the final, it was all Chalmers with a 48.00 while Taylor beat out Southam for 2nd in a personal best 48.41 to Southam’s 48.53.
2023 Australian World Championship Trials (Melbourne, Australia)
In the 200 free prelims, Taylor was well off his best in 1:48.37 for 9th; thankfully for him, Chalmers, the top seed in 1:46.97, bowed out of the final. Embracing his outside smoke status, Taylor led from start to finish, Opening in 51.56 and closing in 54.69 to win the final in 1:46.25, a PR. Post-race Taylor said, “It feels really good. I was disappointed after this morning. Fortunately, Kyle pulled out. I stayed calm and did my thing.”
The next day, in the 100 free, Taylor eased through prelims with a 49.32. He was a hair off his lifetime best in 48.60 for 4th, good for a relay spot in Japan. He was also 22.55 in the 50 free for 9th.
2023 World Aquatics Championships (Fukuoka, Japan)
22 years after his mother won the 5k at her last international competition, Taylor was set to represent Australia for the first time at a major international competition. He opened the meet with an impressive 47.59 prelims 100 free split on the Aussie 400 free relay. In the final, the team of Jack Cartwright (47.84), Southam (47.85), Taylor (47.91), and Chalmers (46.56) combined to reap gold, making Taylor a world champion.
The next day he returned and was a bit off in the 200 free with a 1:46.94 to miss semis in 20th. His best time would have qualified him 6th. Taylor was looking for redemption when he next dove into the pool in the prelims 800 free relay and redemption he found, splitting a 1:44.56, about 2.29 seconds faster than his individual swim and the fastest split of the morning. In the final, Taylor was given leadoff duties and put the squad into 3rd with a 1:45.79. While well of his prelims split, it was still a big best time and put him under 1;46 for the first time. The remaining team of Chalmers (1:45.19), Alexander Graham (1:45.55), and Thomas Neill (1:45.60) combined to take bronze behind Great Britain and the United States.
On the prelims 400 medley relay, he anchored in a solid 47.69. In the final, Chalmers replaced him and split 46.89 to help the team earn bronze.
–This biography was originally developed by Lucas Caswell