Emma McKeon Says Paris 2024 Olympics Will ‘Definitely’ Be Her Last

The Paris 2024 Olympics will “definitely” be the last for 29-year-old Emma McKeon, already the most decorated Australian Olympian in history with 11 medals.

“I think swimming will always be a part of my life and has been for my whole life so far. But this will definitely be my last Olympics, so I’m excited for that,” McKeon told Olympics.com earlier this week. “Success for me in Paris would be to swim faster than I ever have before.”

McKeon will be aiming to pass distance legend Ian Thorpe for most Olympic golds ever won by an Australian, as they are currently tied with five apiece. She earned her first Olympic victory at the Rio 2016 Games in the 400 freestyle relay (3:30.65) before adding four more at the Tokyo 2021 edition: 50 free (Olympic-record 23.81), 100 free (Olympic-record 51.96), 400 free relay (3:29.69), and 400 medley relay (3:51.60). McKeon also won three bronzes in Tokyo, making her the first woman in history to win seven medals at a single Olympics.

McKeon is also looking to tie Americans Natalie Coughlin, Jenny Thompson, and Dara Torres for most Olympic medals won by a female swimmer with 12. Katie Ledecky could also be hunt for that record this summer with 10 Olympic medals to her name.

Only one other woman has been under 52 seconds in the 100 free — world record holder Sarah Sjostrom at 51.71 — but McKeon’s coach, Michael Bohl, has warned her there’s a risk she might not even qualify to defend her Olympic title in the event if she doesn’t break that barrier. Mollie O’Callaghan (personal-best 52.08) and Shayna Jack (52.28) could be threats to go sub-52 at Australian Olympic Trials in June. O’Callaghan (52.27) and Meg Harris (52.59) beat McKeon in the 100 free at the Australian Championships on Thursday night.

“If you don’t go under 52 seconds, there’s a risk that you won’t make it,” Bohl has told McKeon.

If Bohl is using competition as a means to motivate, McKeon has learned that can only take a swimmer so far.

“My motivation definitely goes up and down. But I’ve learnt over the years you can’t really rely on motivation to get you up every morning,” said McKeon, who has collected 14 Commonwealth Games gold medals over the years. “It’s more about discipline, and that’s something I’ve grown more and more over the years in swimming. It’s just having my goals in mind and just being disciplined in knowing what I have to do to achieve those goals.

“But I think post Tokyo, the thing that kept me going was that I felt like I had more to give, and I felt like I could go faster and do better. So that’s kind of what brought me back to the pool.”

McKeon took some time off following her successful Tokyo Olympic run in 2021, skipping the 2022 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. At the 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, she missed the podium individually with a 4th-place finish in the 100 fly (56.88) and 5th-place efforts in the 50 free (24.35) and 100 free (52.83). She brought home three relay medals in the 400 free relay (gold), 400 medley relay (silver), and mixed 400 medley relay (silver).

McKeon said it’s helpful to be aware of competitors and learn from them, but that it’s equally important to be able to tune them out.

“I think it’s just being able to focus on yourself and put the blinkers up a little bit,” she said. “Often you can compare yourself to other people and that for me isn’t good. I think the best thing for me is focusing on myself and knowing that I’m doing everything that I can to be my best.

“You’ve still got to have an awareness of what your competitors are doing and you can learn from your competitors as well, but there’s definitely certain times where you need to have to be focusing on yourself.”

McKeon made her Olympic debut eight years ago in Rio after barely missing the London 2012 team as a 17-year-old.

Outside of the pool, she’s dating Australian singer-turned-swimmer Cody Simpson, who has also hinted at retirement after this summer. Last November, Simpson posted on Instagram that “there are only eight months left in my swimming journey.”

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1 month ago

She has done Australia very proud! Champion!🇦🇺🦘🇦🇺

1 month ago

Her freestyle has not looked good and given the depth in Australian sprinting she’s in danger of not defending her gold medals from Tokyo. Her butterfly looks much better. A medal is Paris is possible but gold looks like a longshot. I don’t know if she’s considered doing a bit more endurance work and throwing her hat in the ring for a spot in the 4X200. The 200 used to be her best event. It would help her 100BF and would guarantee her another Olympic medal, probably gold.

1 month ago

I think she has passed on the 200 as she gets older. She and Bohl know what they are doing I think.

1 month ago

Whilst there is a degree of merit with regards to 200 being helpful for her 100free (not fly); it is patently clear that particular boat sailed a long time ago given she has not raced a 200free since Tokyo.

She’s alrady in line for 4X100/4MED and maybe MMR duty. Add that to 100fly and maybe 1 of the 2 sprint freestyles. That’s still a busy program.

Reply to  commonwombat
1 month ago

She has raced the 200BF on a few occasions in recent years and her times were more than respectable so I don’t think she should rule out the 4X200 completely. It looks like she won’t qualify for the freestyle sprints and even if she squeaks in she will have no chance against Sjostrom, O’Callaghan and others. Her only realistic chance of a medal in Paris is the 100BF and it is an event that is very compatible with the 200FS.

1 month ago

Emma won’t swim 200 free. Its 2024, not 2020. 50, free, 100 free, 100 fly. Thats all folks. I think great chance in 100 fly and will get a 100 free relay spot minimum.

1 month ago

I would love to see her end her Olympic career with a gold in the 100 Butterfly.
Strong chance for gold too in the 4×100 free.
I think maybe Mollie has her measure in the 100 free.

1 month ago

I thought Natalie coughlin, Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres have 12 medals each

Reply to  Swimfan
1 month ago

They do

1 month ago

“McKeon is also tied with Americans Natalie Coughlin, Jenny Thompson, and Dara Torres for most Olympic medals won by a female swimmer with 11. Katie Ledecky could also be hunt for that record this summer with 10 Olympic medals to her name.“

Interesting that of the 11 medals, McKeon and Coughlin were twice Olympic Champion individually, whereas Thompson and Torres only have relay golds. Meanwhile Ledecky has 6 individual golds and short of Summer swimming the 800 free instead of the IM, will add another two in Paris to take her total to 8

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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