Watching her brother compete in the London Olympic Games in 2012 spurred Emma McKeon to join him in Rio.
“I realised I could have been there with him on the team,” says Emma, who was then 17 and studying for her final school exams in Wollongong, NSW. “If only I had put in more effort and more hours in the pool training.”
This year, she’ll have no such regrets. Emma, 22, and David, 23, will do something extraordinary in August when they become just the second brother and sister to swim for Australia at the same Olympics.
In Rio, David is slated to compete in the 400m freestyle and the 4x200m freestyle relay, while Emma has qualified in the 100m butterfly, 200m freestyle, 4x100m freestyle relay, 4x100m medley relay and the 4x200m freestyle relay.
Australia’s last Olympic swimming brother-and-sister act were John and Ilsa Konrads at the 1960 Rome Games (John won a gold; Ilsa a silver).
“It’s so rare,” says Emma. “To have someone as great as John Konrads as the last [Olympic swimming sibling] is so nice.”
In many ways it is remarkable, in other ways it’s almost business as usual in the McKeon family, whose swimming pedigree is almost unmatched in Australian sporting history. Emma and David’s father, Ron, swam at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics and won four Commonwealth Games gold medals. Their mother, Susie, was a Commonwealth Games swimmer, and their uncle Rob Woodhouse swam at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, grabbing bronze in Los Angeles.
In Rio, Emma will also be looking to David for practical advice.
“He’s been to the Olympics before so it will be helpful having him there,” she says. “He knows what the atmosphere is like, what village life is like so he will be able to tell me all his first-hand experience.”
For his part, David, who left London without making a final, is looking to better his 2012 results. “I was a newbie in London so I guess this time is my fifth year on the team and I will be one of the older, more experienced guys and able to use that to my advantage,” he says.
Having his little sister there for emotional support will also play into David’s hands. “Me and Emma are pretty close,” he says, “and we know what each other is going through.”
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