Kaylee McKeown flashed a grin and then blew a kiss to her late father from the pool after winning gold in the 100m backstroke at the Tokyo Olympics.
The brave young Queenslander, who tragically lost her father Sholto to brain cancer in August last year, then dedicated the swim to her greatest supporter.
‘I hope you’re proud, and I’ll keep doing you proud,’ she said.
Before taking to the pool, the 20-year-old revealed how a small tattoo reading ‘I will always be with you’ on her foot served as a reminder her father was looking over her.
‘It just so happens that I can see the ‘be with you’, McKeown said before the Games, of being able to look at the tattoo at the start of her backstroke races.
‘It’s kind of cool to see that because I know that he will be with me and that’s just very precious.’
McKeown’s time of 57.47 was just 0.02 seconds off the world record she set in the event at the Australian Olympic selection trials in June.
New Olympic champion Kaylee McKeown blows a kiss to her late father Sholto after winning the women’s 100m backstroke at the Tokyo Olympics
The small tattoo reading ‘I will always be with you’, in tribute to her father Sholto, is visible on the top of Kaylee McKeown’s (above, left) foot
McKeown’s Olympic record time of 57.47 was just 0.02 seconds off the world record she set in the event at the Australian Olympic selection trials
Before the Games, she said the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics to this year had helped her prepare for the event and spend some precious extra moments with her father before he passed away.
‘My dad in many ways is my big inspiration now,’ she said.
‘I use him in the last 50 of my racing, like, ‘Come on dad, help me cross the line’, because I know he is there.’
Sholto McKeown had been hopeful of watching his daughters, Kaylee and 26-year-old Taylor – who missed the Olympic team – swim at the Tokyo Games when originally scheduled last year.
McKeown’s relief at overcoming the death of her father to claim the gold medal was obvious when she swore on live TV immediately after the swim.
‘F**k yeah!’ she exclaimed when asked what she would like to say to her family watching back in Australia.
‘We will get the bleeper out,’ joked interviewer Nathan Templeton.
The 20-year-old Queenslander found the Covid delay of the Games ‘a blessing’ after her father passed away in August last year
McKeown admitted she had battled demons in the lead-up to the event, but said they made the victory even sweeter.
‘It’s not necessarily what I’ve been through — everyone has a journey of their own — it just happens mine has been a really tough one,’ she told Channel 7.
‘I wouldn’t have it any other way because I don’t think I’d be where I am today without all that happening.
‘My legs were definitely hurting with the last 20 to go.’
McKeown’s mother Sharon told Channel Seven immediately after the race that the past year had been ‘pretty tough’ for her daughter.
‘Her daddy would be so proud.. Hasn’t sunk in. So happy and excited. Can’t wait to give her a cuddle,’ she said.
‘Covid has probably been a bit of a blessing. Kaylee has been able to focus and fly under the radar and she’s done a great job.
‘She knows dad is watching over her.’
Ms McKeown said she would be having a word to her daughter about the swearing on national TV.
‘This is a testament to her hard work,’ McKeown’s sister Taylor told the broadcast.
‘I use him in the last 50 of my racing, like, ‘Come on dad, help me cross the line’,’ Kaylee McKeown said of the inspiration she draws from her late father, Sholto=
McKeown’s father was first diagnosed with grade-four glioblastoma in June of 2018, undergoing round after round of chemotherapy hoping to see his daughters grow up.
‘I use it every day that I wake up,’ McKeown said of her dad last month. ‘I know it’s a privilege to be on this earth and walk and talk.’
Sholto was hoping to see his two daughters swim together at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020, but the pandemic delayed the event and he sadly passed away aged 53 in August.
‘My dad always said he would love to have seen us swim at the 2020 Olympics together,’ McKeown told the Sydney Morning Herald.
‘It’s amazing, we would have been able to race at the Olympics if it had gone ahead, then come home and be able to see him. He timed it perfectly… he had the run of his life to have potentially seen us race at the Olympics.
‘That’s my biggest goal, to tick that box off for him. He always wanted to see that and you never know what they are doing up above; whether or not he can see that. It’s always in the back of my mind. That’s something he wanted to see us achieve.’