Emma McKeon Becomes Australia’s Oldest Olympic Swimming Qualifier in 32 Years


Emma McKeon became Australia’s most decorated Olympian in Tokyo, earning four gold and three bronze medals to bring her career total to 11. Last night, she qualified for her third Olympic team with her victory in the 100 butterfly, but she also made history in another way.

Having celebrated her 30th birthday on May 24, McKeon became the oldest athlete to qualify for Australia’s Olympic swim team in 32 years. Lisa Curry was also 30 when she qualified for the 1992 Barcelona Games in the 100 butterfly (13th) and 50 free (9th), coincidentally two events that McKeon also specializes in.

McKeon stopped the clock in 56.85, just over a second off her Australian record time of 55.72, which she swam en route to the bronze at the Tokyo Olympics. She’s been faster this season at the National Championships in April (56.58).

“It definitely takes that little bit of added pressure off, I think knowing I’m going to Paris now,” McKeon said after the swim. “I’ve been looking forward to that for three years now. It’s just nice to get it out of the way and be on that [Olympic] team.”

Earlier this year, McKeon stated that Paris will be her last Olympics.

McKeon’s season hasn’t been easy so far. In December, she withdrew from the 2023 Queensland Championships to recover from a torn armpit muscle. Now, with qualification squared away, she can turn her focus towards the intense battle brewing in the 100 free. While she is the national record holder and reigning Olympic champion (51.96), Australia’s depth in the event will make the race for an individual berth a bloodbath.

McKeon will also contest the 50 free, where she is also the reigning Olympic champion.

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11 days ago

Is she on roids?

11 days ago

Landlord thought I bought a dog with all the barking I’ve been doing for Emma 😍😍

12 days ago

Looked tied.Probably sick.

12 days ago

A legend with nothing to prove.

At the bare minimum she will add another 2 medals (4×100 free, 4×100 med) with strong possibility of 1 gold in Paris.
If she qualifies in either 50 or 100 free, that would also increase her chances of more medals, also a big chance in 4×100 mixed med, even as a heat swimmer.

Southerly Buster
12 days ago

McKeon has been faster than 56.58 this season. She swam a 56.40 at Victorian Open in February.

12 days ago

A record for C1 to break.

12 days ago

I think it’s an indictment of the Australian winning system that they’re breaking or burning out athletes often enough that they have 30 year olds make a team this infrequently

Last edited 12 days ago by oxyswim
Reply to  oxyswim
12 days ago

There has only really been enough money in the sport in recent (20 maybe?) to keep swimmers – especially women – in the sport at age 30.

Even Curry took a break (4yrs?) from the sport in the 80s to have kids before returning at the 1990 Comm Games. Relaxation of amateur rules in the mid-80s probably contributed to her decision to make a comeback.

Reply to  Oceanian
12 days ago

Fraser was an anomaly going on into her mid-late 20s but one suspects there was some blind eyes/books being fiddled to facilitate that. Once the amateur sham was finally removed, there has been far greater longevity.

Livingstone went on to 25 and both O’Neill and Thomas were 29 at Sydney and Athens respectively. Jones & Trickett were 27 in London.

Reply to  commonwombat
12 days ago

Young Dawn was employed by a department store. Her job was to visit competitor stores, record their prices and report back to her boss.

She got her friends to pretty much do it for her when they went out shopping so she could train and rest and maybe once a week take the figures in to her employer.

Work smarter, not harder – even back in the 50s/60s…

Just Keep Swimming
Reply to  oxyswim
12 days ago

It’s less about injury/burnout than it is the fact that you can’t make a living off swimming in Australia

Reply to  oxyswim
12 days ago

How many 30+ swimmers are there likely to be on the US squad? Or GB/China/Canada/france/italy? I don’t think this is an Australia “issue”.

Reply to  Swimmer
12 days ago

Apart from Flo Manaudou, can’t name any 30+ year old with a decent shot in those countries

Reply to  Swimmer
11 days ago

Many(most?) elite female swimmers break through already when they’re like 16. So come late 20s they’re often drained mentally, in many cases even earlier than that. You have to look at their career span rather than age. But physically there’s absolutely no obstacle to be good in the 30s and many swimmers especially in sprint have proven that and still do.

If you’re good and swim the competitions available outside of championships you will make money in swimming. But beyond the Sjostroms, Haugheys and a few more, making a good living doesn’t seem to be as important as that one medal every four years. Clearly setting that pressure on yourself instead of enjoying the process every day and competing… Read more »

tea rex
Reply to  Joe
11 days ago

Great points Joe. The ISL looked like an opportunity for Americans/Aussies to get in on the fun, but now there isn’t much investment beyond the Olympics.

I’ve noticed some of the successful long careers (Coughlin, Sjostrom, Pellegrini, Cseh, McEvoy) shift to events they want to train for, rather than just the events where they are most likely to win Olympic medals.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Swimmer
11 days ago

Yeah, but I feel like they have at least one or two 30+ swimmers every cycle. (Like, I think Tom Shields and Allison Schmitt were in Tokyo.)

Kalisz and Fink have good shots this cycle, though definitely fewer 30+ yo women than men usually.

Just Keep Swimming
Reply to  Steve Nolan
11 days ago

Again, that’s because Americans get the resources to make a living off swimming so can swim longer

Emily Se-Bom Lee
12 days ago

mckeon is older than curry was. 1992 trials were held in early april, more than a month before curry’s 30th birthday

Last edited 12 days ago by Emily Se-Bom Lee