McKeon Speaks To Mental Toll Of Busy Commonwealth Games Schedule

The dust is settling from this year’s Commonwealth Games, where the nation of Australia dominated the overall swimming and para-swimming medal table with a haul of 65 pieces of hardware.

Emma McKeon was a strong contributor to that total, with the versatile 28-year-old racking up individual golds in the 50m free and 50m fly, along with a 100m fly silver and 100m free bronze.

Along with relays, McKeon captured 8 medals, making her the most decorated Australian athlete in Commonwealth Games history.

But the packed schedule in Birmingham did not come without a price, as McKeon now speaks to the mental toll her frequent trips to the starting block cost her.

Speaking to media post-Games, McKeon said, “There were so many wonderful parts of the week but yes, there were also difficult parts. I would say it has been a rollercoaster of emotions.

“You try to be stable over the course of a week, as big as it is, but feelings can build up and I let them out.

“You can’t try to be a robot. I’m not a robot. You try to hold yourself together as much as you can, but yeah, there are times when I drop everything and have a good cry.”

McKeon continued, “Not putting too much pressure on myself has been a challenge and it is not easy for me to do.

“I used to be really hard on myself when I wasn’t happy with the times I did or if I didn’t swim the race the way I knew I was capable. Whereas now I get a little annoyed but that’s all. It is more helpful.

“I guess that’s what makes me better for next time. I’m better able to just pick the things I need to improve on and take me from there instead of beating myself up for doing nothing.

With Paris 2024 now on the horizon, fewer than 430 days from now, McKeon says of her Olympic preparation, “It’s square one again on my way to Paris. Not letting myself overdo it with the pressure was a big deal.”

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How much can CD bench???
3 months ago

Here’s the better question. If both are in their prime; who anchors your 4×1… Chalmers or Thorpe?

Robbos
Reply to  How much can CD bench???
3 months ago

Fond memories of Thorpe over Hall in 2000, but Chalmers every time. he is a beast.

Jamesabc
Reply to  How much can CD bench???
3 months ago

Thorpe is amazing but in terms of times it’s not even close. Kyle has some of the fastest splits ever. Conversely, stick Thorpe on anchor for the 4×200. His split from 2001 is still top ten ever.

Kelsey
Reply to  How much can CD bench???
3 months ago

Chalmers the guy is a machine! I truly hope he gets gold in Paris

Kelsey
3 months ago

From that table Chad and Leisel both have 7 individual gold medals. Thorpe, O’Neill, Thomas, Larkin and Titmus all have 5 individual golds. The media saying McKeon is the greatest of all time – definitely most medaled but for me definitely not greatest of all time her individual medal count doesn’t stack up against the above.

Fraser Thorpe
Reply to  Kelsey
3 months ago

Don’t let critical thinking get in the way of a clickable headline

Kelsey
Reply to  Fraser Thorpe
3 months ago

Haha so true the media love a clickable headline

Robbos
Reply to  Kelsey
3 months ago

The media is saying she is the greatest of alltime in terms of most medaled, no-one says she is the greatest swimmer of alltime in swimming for Commonwealth games.

Jamesabc
Reply to  Kelsey
3 months ago

She has the most golds and the most medals. Yes, in terms of individuals, she only has 10 medals. But four of them are gold and they’re across six different individual events.

I just think we’re lucky to have had so many talented swimmers do so well.

Kelsey
Reply to  Jamesabc
3 months ago

And how many would those generational talents I listed above have if there were more relays back then. Don’t get me wrong she’s a great swimmer. But the only appropriate way to compare is individual medals and she doesn’t come close.

Memma EcKeon
3 months ago

Chad is the only non Australian making the list

Reed
3 months ago

IMHO, swimming at just one fairly low-key meet per year like Comms should not be causing mental stress to AUS female swimmers like McKeon and Titmus who have spoken openly about choosing to avoid World Championships because of external pressures they felt. The independent commission that recently examined AUS swim culture “identified issues that affect athlete experiences and wellbeing at all levels of the sport, including a fear and pressure to perform, speaking out, and more broadly control and the coaching culture”. Can anyone speak to whether the board and management of Swimming AUS has taken even a single step yet to alleviate pressure on AUS female swimmers?
Swimming Australia – 2021 Independent Panel Report Response

Personal Best
Reply to  Reed
3 months ago

Ain’t fairly low-key when there is far more media attention in Aus on the Comm Games than on the World Champs.
Ain’t no ‘live’ crosses to swimmers in Budapest on prime time as there were for the Comm Games.

But anyway.

Dennis
Reply to  Personal Best
3 months ago

So then, you feel it’s the fault of media coverage and public attention and has nothing to do with things like “the communication to female swimmers by coaches and others about physiological benchmarks of elite sport such as weight, skin folds and body shape and the psychological impact that has on the wellbeing of swimmers” which was an area of inquiry of the independent commission?

NotThatOtherGuy
Reply to  Reed
3 months ago

Obviously with all your years of experience swimming at the highest level you know whereof you speak.

Emily
Reply to  NotThatOtherGuy
3 months ago

Valid questions. There have been a lot of elite female AUS swimmers speaking out on eating disorders, including Cate Campbell, Emily Seebohm, Leisel Jones, Lani Pallister. Others, such as Maddie Groves, have brought forth allegations of abuse. This season, McKeon and Titmus have spoken on issues of mental stress, mental fatigue, and external pressures. Doesn’t seem to be much action being taken by Swimming AUS leaders such as Eugenie Buckley and Board president Tracy Caulkins-Stockwell.

Jamesabc
Reply to  Reed
3 months ago

McKeon has never said she avoided World Champs because of pressure. I’d love to see that quote because it doesn’t exist.

Dressel however did pull out mid-meet allegedly because of panic attacks. Perhaps an investigation should be launched into USA swimming? Why would he be so stressed about an uncompetitive, ad hoc world champs when he’s so successful already?

Gavin
Reply to  Jamesabc
3 months ago

Right, sure. Emma’s only retired or threatened retirement from swimming how many times? Two? Three? Because she loves the sport and its pressures so much!! She has done horribly at Worlds historically (no indiv gold in any events), and also knew she could burnish her image by attending Comms with her beau and pick up easy medals at essentially an inter-squad meet.

Robbos
Reply to  Gavin
3 months ago

She is the Olympic champion in 2 individual events & swam the fastest 100 metres in a 100 free race (the only faster time was done in a relay with no pressure) in the final of the Olympics.
Are you trying to imply she can’t handle the pressure?

Swammer
Reply to  Robbos
3 months ago

Have you even read the quotes attributed to McKeon in the article? Probably not. It seems that her ability to handle pressure is suspect, and is something that is still a work in progress (having a “good cry”, “not putting too much pressure on myself”, “not letting myself overdo it with the pressure”, “rollercoaster of emotions”, “not beating myself up”). Is it any wonder she figuratively joined hands with Titmus and chose to take the low-pressure Comms inter-squad meet route this year?

Robbos
Reply to  Swammer
3 months ago

They say the cause of most of our woes is how people interpret the bible differently.

I did not read the article & the quotes as someone who doubted her ability to handle pressure or that her temperament is suspect at all. I read this is how she deals with pressure & that this year as she is getting older, after years of competing 2013, 2015, 2017 & 2019 WCs & the 2016 & 2020 Olympics, she decided to give herself a year off to relive the pressure of training & racing. However wanted to take on the Comm games as they have very high value to the Aussie public.

Look at the prominent sprinters of the this generation Emma… Read more »

Perth
Reply to  Jamesabc
3 months ago

The issue of stress in AUS swimmers is not about one particular swimmer or another, and certainly not about one male USA swimmer. The independent commission in AUS reportedly interviewed at least 150 AUS swimmers and other individuals regarding serious deficiencies in the nation’s swim culture. Yet Swim AUS refuses to release the contents of the report, supposedly to protect the identities of individuals–despite the Commission providing permission for the report’s release.

Sub13
Reply to  Reed
3 months ago

Maybe you should ask them? Doubtful they’re hanging out on SwimSwam.

Robbos
3 months ago

McKeon what a great swimmer!!!!

Joel
3 months ago

I don’t think Paris is fewer than 430 days from now.

Sub13
Reply to  Joel
3 months ago

Don’t know who downvoted you because you’re right. 430 days from now is like… November 2023?

CADWALLADER GANG
Reply to  Joel
3 months ago

it’s probably around 720 days

Dom Tean
3 months ago

Emma > Chad

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Former Masters swimmer and coach Loretta (Retta) thrives on a non-stop but productive schedule. Nowadays, that includes having just earned her MBA while working full-time in IT while owning French 75 Boutique while also providing swimming insight for BBC.

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