Australia’s golden girl in the pool and recent Griffith graduate Emma McKeon says she’s now enjoying a bit of a break from exercise and competition following her incredible seven medal haul in Tokyo.
From quarantine in Howard Springs, she told Griffith News the journey to date, culminating in a swag of medals and international acclaim, has been pretty surreal.
“Its still taken a lot to sink in, even though we’ve had the time, (with) a week now in quarantine, and time to reflect and kind of slow down a bit,” she said.
“It is just all a bit of a whirlwind, really, because we’ve had the last five years of training, then we had the delay of the Games, and then all of a sudden, the trials and then Olympics, and then the next day, get on the plane, come home, get into quarantine. It’s been really, really busy and just a lot to process.”
Returning to Australia with 4 Gold medals and 3 Bronze, which makes her the most decorated Australian athlete ever at a single Olympics, McKeon says she’s not planning on getting in the pool anytime soon.
“I’m going to have a bit of a break, and these two weeks (in quarantine), I haven’t done any exercise at all, which has been nice.
“I won’t be rushing back into swimming training, but I will be swimming a little bit because I’m going to go over and do the international swim league in Italy, but that’s pretty much it for the rest of the year, from about September.”
Having trained under Griffith High Performance Swim Squad Coach Michael Bohl for several years now, she says he was instrumental in ensuring she didn’t lose too much focus last year, when the pandemic started impacting training and competition opportunities, delaying the Olympics.
“Bohly was a big impact on that and when the Olympics was cancelled, I was pretty upset about it,” she admitted.
“It took a bit to adjust, because I’d gone from being totally focused and totally motivated to not really having much direction. I went back home to Wollongong and spent probably three months back down there and Bohly would call me every week and just check in on me.
“He was pretty sensible …and really good in helping me maintain my motivation (but) gave me time to just reset and then we kind of built back into it.”
McKeon doesn’t do things by halves. She combined training and competition at an elite level with studying for a Bachelor of Public Health at Griffith.
“It has been hard at times but I’ve done it part-time over quite a few years, and I really wouldn’t have finished my degree without Griffith Sports College because they helped me stay flexible and be able to get things in when I couldn’t otherwise fit the study around my sport.
“I definitely wouldn’t have a degree if I didn’t have their support and help.
“I think doing it part time over that many years definitely helped my swimming as well, because I had something else that I was working towards outside of the pool.
“I finished the degree, and my last assignment went in right before Olympic trials so that was like a huge relief.
“Even in the lead up to that I (thought) maybe I’ll just stop and defer but I’m glad that I kept going and the sports college definitely helped me to finish that last little bit off as well.”
It has been said that McKeon is not motivated by medals. She admits that’s not entirely true and that there’s still more to achieve… after a rest.
“You need to have the medals in the back of your mind, I think, and I definitely did, because I wanted to win, but at the forefront were the things I know I need to work on to get there.
“The medals were not my focus, but it was definitely in the back of my mind, because that’s what we were working towards, and what we what we wanted to go and achieve in Tokyo.
“I don’t think I’ve gotten to the pinnacle of what I can do, because I feel like I’m still improving.”
“All my events in Tokyo were Personal Bests, and I achieved all the goals that I was working towards in the last five years, so I think that’s a really nice way to finish off that Olympic cycle.
“I just want to pause for a bit and be proud of that before I kind of look towards the future and what comes next.”