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Australian swimming champion Emma McKeon has revealed the secret to dominating the pool at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, as she manages the blazing spotlight on her past and present relationships – a good old catchphrase.
The new queen of the pool took her breath away in Birmingham, with her 20 pool medals earned a Commonwealth Games record and two more than her nearest rival.
She also has 11 Olympic medals, five of which were gold, to establish herself as the true GOAT of the pool at all levels for Australian swimmers.
The relationship between McKeon and Simpson has been in the spotlight as much as the Aussies’ pool performance at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games
But her performance in Birmingham has come under intense scrutiny from her current relationship with fellow Team Australia swimmer and former pop star Cody Simpson, her ex-boyfriend and Commonwealth Games swimmer Kyle Chalmers and reports of a tense love triangle that just won’t stop.
Each member of the trio has reacted differently.
Simpson has chosen to bat questions with Bill Lawry’s patient trickery in his Test cricket prime. Chalmers has exploded in the media and threatened to quit the sport altogether.
McKeon? While she publicly chose to speak only about her achievements in the pool, she admits privately that there were many tears before she lifted herself up to compete.
“Obviously it was a pretty tough week. There were many good parts in it. Of course share with [partner] Cody [Simpson] and both my parents have in the stands every time I raced. That was special because they couldn’t be in Tokyo,” she said News Corp.
“There were so many great parts of the week, but yes, there were tough parts too. I’ll say it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions.’
There were reports of tension between McKeon and Chalmers when they swam together on the same relay team, claims vehemently denied by Chalmers
She adds: “You try to stay steady for a week as big as this one, but the emotions can run high and I let them out.
“You can’t try to be a robot. I am not a robot. You try to keep yourself together as much as possible, but yes, there are times when I just let it go and have a good cry.’
McKeon admits she’s not a public person and is a classic introvert, which isn’t the ideal combination of the highs and lows of fame and glory.
She says expressing her emotions has been her coping mechanism and has prompted her to win seven medals in Tokyo, the most by a female swimmer in a single Olympics.
‘I started to get a little stressed. I got points one-three of a second off gold in the 100m and once I saw how close it was I was really disappointed and thought it was a missed opportunity. It hit me because I just didn’t feel the way I wanted to feel.’
“You’re always learning while you’re at it,” she says. “This week I feel like I’ve learned that I probably have a lot of control over my mind. Dealing with failure is huge and I’ve improved there.
“You’ll take that with you for the rest of your life, right? Dealing with disappointments and just being able to handle yourself in difficult situations… I think I learned this week that I can do that quite well. It was a challenge not to put too much pressure on myself and that is not easy for me.
“I have great expectations of myself and this week I had to bring myself back to, this is another bit square on the way to Paris. Allowing myself not to overdo the pressure was a big deal.”
McKeon has admitted the pressure from the Commonwealth Games has been exhausting
While other athletes will likely paint the city of Birmingham red, McKeon will likely retire to a secluded beach somewhere with Simpson to recharge.
It was exhausting both mentally and physically and McKeon says the downtime will help her recharge for another bout at the pool during the Paris Olympics.
“The most important thing was definitely the mental toll,” she said. “It’s been a big week. It was physically demanding, but I trained for that. Mentally you have to get up to race and whatever the result you have to come down to rest and recover.
“Then you have to get up again to race again. Then you have to go down again. Doing that 16 times in a week was a lot. It can be exhausting, but it’s worth it. Part of the challenge you’ve decided to take on yourself.”
One of the many medals McKeon won in swimming pool at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games
“I used to be very hard on myself if I wasn’t happy with the time I had put in or if I didn’t swim a race like I knew he was capable. While I’m a little annoyed now, but that’s about it. It’s more useful.
“I think that will make me better for next time. I’m better at picking the things I need to improve on and moving on from there rather than humiliating myself for not doing something as well as I could have done.
“I can see now that I’m probably doing quite well.”