There is something special about watching athletes at the peak of their powers.
In swimming, Australia has been blessed with many superb performers whose successes have added to the nation’s sporting pantheon.
Among them is Emma McKeon, Australia’s best-credentialled swimmer of recent years after stellar performances dating back to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, through to the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games and the 2017 FINA world swimming titles in Hungary.
The next big event in Emma’s sights just happens to be the biggest event in Australia this decade–the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in April–which will not only see Emma swimming in front of a home crowd, but also spending plenty of time at Griffith University in the lead-up.
As well as studying a Bachelor of Public Health at Griffith, Emma is a member of high-profile swim coach Michael Bohl’s high-performance squad that is now training out of the new aquatic centre on Griffith’s Gold Coast campus.
Wollongong-born Emma says the move of training base from Brisbane will enable her to focus on the two most important parts of her life: swimming and study.
“I’m halfway through my degree and I haven’t been able to physically attend class as much as I’d like. Now this will be much easier,” she says.
“For me, studying gives me something to take my mind off the pool, and it’s important to focus on having qualifications for when I finish swimming competitively.”
Speaking of competition, the next few years loom as massive for freestyle and butterfly specialist Emma, firstly with the Commonwealth Games and onward to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympic Games.
Having won four gold and two bronze medals in Glasgow, Emma returned from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio with the most medals of any Australian athlete, including gold and a world record as a member of Australia’s 4×100 m relay team.
In recognition of her achievements, Emma received a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the 2017 Australia Day Honours list.
She was one of a number of Griffith University students and alumni so recognised. Fellow Rio gold medallists Madison Wilson (swimming, Nursing), Shannon Parry (rugby sevens, Education) and Katie Kelly (paralympic triathlon, Arts) also received the OAM.
In July 2017, Emma competed at the world swimming championships in Budapest, where she became the first Australian woman to claim six medals at the titles.
Ironically, as much as Emma has a competitive spirit, she doesn’t feel pressured to succeed.
“In myself, I always want to perform well, whether it is in my home town or overseas,” she says.
“A change of environment is always good, so having a new training facility on the Gold Coast is motivating and fresh.
“Training on the Gold Coast and studying at Griffith will make it all the more exciting as the Commonwealth Games arrive.”