AFP/ Adelaide, Australia
Emma McKeon reinforced her status as a gold medal favourite in the 100m freestyle at the Tokyo Olympics yesterday, scorching to victory ahead of veteran Cate Campbell in the Australian trials.
The 27-year-old, who won four medals at the 2016 Rio Games, made a statement in the morning heats at Adelaide with a blistering 52.19secs, the world’s best this year, and touched in 52.35 to win the final.
She now owns the world’s three fastest times of 2021 as she zeroes in on the 51.71 world record set by Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom four years ago.
Campbell was second in 52.59 to book her spot at a fourth Olympics.
Australia has such depth in the sprints that Madi Wilson and Meg Harris also went under 53 seconds, boding well as they target a hat-trick of gold medals in the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay.
China’s Zhang Yufei is the only other swimmer to dip under the milestone this year.
“I’m been pretty happy with how I’ve been swimming this week,” said McKeon, who has also qualified in the 200m freestyle, where she won bronze in 2016, and the 100m butterfly.
Mitch Larkin also qualified in the 200m medley, having made the agonising decision to ditch his signature 200m backstroke event, where he won gold at the 2015 world championships and silver in Rio.
Those two events are scheduled back-to-back on the Olympic programme, and he decided it would be too demanding to attempt both.
He comfortably qualified in 1:56.29, second only to Britain’s Duncan Scott (1:55.90) this year.
Japan’s world champion Daiya Seto is also shaping as a key rival as Larkin attempts to win Australia’s first ever medal, of any colour, in the event.
In his absence, Tristan Hollard swam a 1:56.44 to book his seat in the 200m backstroke.
Elsewhere, Jenna Strauch clinched the women’s 200m breaststroke in 2:23.12 to make the team along with Abbey Harkin (2:23.59). Both swam personal bests to get there.
“I’m just so glad Abbey qualified with me, we’ve been on this journey together,” said Strauch, with both women set for their first Olympics.
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