Swimming 2022: Emma McKeon to skip world swimming championships to focus on 2024 Olympics
Tokyo Olympics star Emma McKeon has opted to skip a major event, and could even miss another. But she has the pinnacle of swimming in her sights.
Tokyo hero Emma McKeon will miss this year’s rescheduled world swimming championships, with she and coach Michael Bohl maintaining a big-picture focus ahead of the Paris Olympics.
McKeon, who won seven medals including four gold, in Tokyo last year, is the first big name to confirm she won’t compete at the world titles, which have been rescheduled for Budapest July, just a couple of weeks ahead of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
The championships were originally slated for Fukuoka, Japan, in May but the ongoing Covid pandemic forced world governing body FINA to reschedule the meet for next year.
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In a baffling decision, FINA then pencilled another championship in for this year, shoe-horning the meet into the July window.
But it will not affect the plans of McKeon, who is already Australia’s most successful Olympian but wants to line up at a third Games in Paris in 2024.
While the 27-year-old is likely to front up in May to a meet that will act as selection trials for both the world championship and Commonwealth Games teams, Bohl confirmed she would not accept a place on the Australian squad for the Budapest championships in July.
“Emma’s a definite no for worlds,” Bohl said.
“We made a decision we’re going to back-end the year.”
Several members of Australia’s successful Olympic team, including Ariarne Titmus and Kyle Chalmers had hinted they would not take part in the worlds when they were originally slated for May.
The new schedule may change the minds of some – but McKeon, who is back in training but remains in Wollongong with family after a taxing 2021 that included competing on the World Cup and ISL circuits late into the year – won’t be among them.
McKeon could yet swim at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in July-August but Bohl said that decision was not yet in cement and would be assessed following trials.
“With someone like Emma, you’ve got to look at 2024 and work back from there,” Bohl said.
“Looking short-term is not the sensible option for someone like her.
“As the years get closer to 2024 they get more important.”
But that would not be the case for everyone in Bohl’s star-studded Gold Coast squad.
Bohl, who has guided the careers of several world and Olympic champions, had added Rio gold medallist Mack Horton and Tokyo golden girl Kaylee McKeown to his group in recent months.
Like McKeon, two-time Olympian Horton’s schedule will be flexible, with Paris his main aim, while McKeown is already back in action, swimming at the Victorian championships this weekend.
“It’s an unusual year,” Boh said of the many changes to the international calendar.
“Two years from the Olympics it doesn’t really matter too much – you go back to 2015, one year before Rio and someone like Mack missed the final of the 200m freestyle at the world champs and ended up winning (gold at the Olympics the following year).
“Kyle Chalmers was a relay swimmer in Kazan (in 2015) and 12 months later ends up winning the Olympic Games.
“I just think they’ve got to be at a reasonable level and you want them getting better each year.
“Whatever happens this year, I’m not going to say it’s not important but in the whole scheme of things, it’s the 2024 year you want to be doing your best at.
“Your approach has got to be different with each of the (athletes).
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“(Younger athletes), even Kaylee … going to these big meets is really important, whereas you’ve got Emma (McKeon) and Mack (Horton) who have been to Olympic Games and got on the podium, you feel a bit more comfortable with the fact that they’ve stood on that stage before and done it a couple of times now and performed quite well.
“But I think those young ones coming through, the more they’re racing internationally, the better they’re going to be behind the blocks when they get to Paris.”
Originally published as Swimming 2022: Emma McKeon to skip world swimming championships to focus on 2024 Olympics