Kaylee McKeown has smashed the 200m backstroke world record on the opening night of finals at the 2023 NSW State Open Championships.
The 21-year-old from Griffith University in Queensland clocked a time of two minutes 03.14 seconds to clip 0.21 seconds off American Regan Smith’s time set at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea.
Kaylee McKeown after winning the women’s 100m backstroke final in December last year.Credit:AP
McKeown was in the zone when she walked onto the pool deck at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre on Friday and wasted no time setting the pace with a 29.34 for her first 50m.
The Olympic, World and Commonwealth Games champion then split 1:00.73 at the 100m and 1:31.84 at the 150m mark.
McKeown claimed the 100m and 200m backstroke golds at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, but knows defending her titles in Paris won’t be easy.
“I knew it was going to be a new level heading into the  Olympics and I think it’s great seeing Regan Smith doing all her double-ups,” she said.
Kaylee McKeown at the world swimming short course championships in December 2022.Credit:AP
“It’s scary and it’s daunting to me when you are looking at a competitor or competitors who are that fierce.
“Even Molly O’Callaghan in Australia – the backstroke depth is definitely coming back at that top level so it’s exciting.”
McKeown said she had lacked motivation to get back in the pool after her Tokyo success but a block of intense training with her squad at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre had reignited her competitive nature.
“After the Olympics I found it hard to get up behind the blocks again,” she said.
“[But] I’ve found a new love for the sport and it just goes to show that a happy swimmer is a fast swimmer.
“I haven’t necessarily changed anything in my program or training-wise. It’s just that I’m happier.”
Elsewhere, Tokyo Olympian Isaac Cooper broke his own Australian 50m backstroke record – stopping the clock at 24.38.
Shayna Jack clocked 53.12 to upset Olympic champion Emma McKeon (53.55) in the 100m freestyle final.
Kyle Chalmers won the 100m in 48.09 from fellow Commonwealth Games gold medal relay swimmer William Yang.
World champion Elijah Winnington led from start to finish to take out the men’s 400m freestyle in 3:47.98, ahead of 2016 Olympic champion Mack Horton (3:51.61).
Alexandria Perkins (26.12) scored an impressive victory in the women’s 50m butterfly ahead of McKeon and 17-year-old Isabella Boyd,
Bowen Gough hung on to claim the men’s 200m butterfly, while Jenna Strauch, world championship and Commonwealth Games silver medallist over 200m breaststroke, scored a comfortable win in the 100m breaststroke from fellow Olympian Abbey Harkin.
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