Kaylee McKeown grinned and then blew a kiss to her late father from the pool after she won gold in the 100m backstroke at the Tokyo Olympics.
The brave young Queenslander, who tragically lost her father Sholto to brain cancer last August, then dedicated the swim to her biggest supporter.
“I hope you’re proud, and I’ll continue to make you proud,” she said.
Before heading to the pool, the 20-year-old revealed how a small tattoo that read “I’ll always be with you” on her foot served as a reminder that her father looked over her.
“Coincidentally, 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 pretty cool to see that because I know he’ll be with me and it’s just really precious.”
McKeown’s time of 57.47 was just 0.02 seconds off the world record she set 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 that reads ‘I will always be with you’, in tribute to her father Sholto, is visible on the top of Kaylee McKeown’s (top left) foot
McKeown’s Olympic record time of 57.47 was just 0.02 seconds off the world record she set in Australia’s Olympic selection trials
Before the Games, she said that 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 died.
“My father is now my great source of inspiration in many ways,” she said.
“I use it in the last 50 of my racing, like, ‘Come on daddy, help me cross the line’ because I know it’s there.”
Sholto McKeown had hoped to see his daughters, Kaylee and 26-year-old Taylor – who missed the Olympic team – swim at the Tokyo Games, as originally scheduled for last year.
McKeown’s relief at overcoming her father’s death to claim the gold medal was evident when she swore on live TV right after the swim.
“F**k yes!” she exclaimed when asked what she would like to say to her family looking back in Australia.
“We’ll get the pager out,” interviewer Nathan Templeton joked.
The 20-year-old Queenslander found the Covid delay of the Games ‘a blessing’ after her father passed away last August
McKeown admitted to battling demons leading up to the event, but said they made the win even sweeter.
“It’s not necessarily what I’ve been through – everyone has their own journey – it just happens that mine has been very difficult,” she told Channel 7.
“I wouldn’t want it any other way, because I don’t think I would be where I am today without everything happening.
“My legs definitely hurt with the last twenty to go.”
McKeown’s mother Sharon told Channel Seven immediately after the race that the past year had been “quite rough” for her daughter.
‘Her father would be so proud. Hasn’t sunk yet. So happy and excited. I can’t wait to give her a hug,’ she said.
“Covid has probably been a bit of a blessing. Kaylee has been able to focus and fly under the radar and she has done a great job.
“She knows Daddy’s watching over her.”
Ms McKeown said she would talk to her daughter about swearing on national television.
“This is a testament to her hard work,” McKeown’s sister Taylor told the broadcast.
“I use it in the last 50 of my races, like, ‘Come on daddy, help me cross the line,'” Kaylee McKeown said of the inspiration she takes from her late father, Sholto=
McKeown’s father was first diagnosed with grade four glioblastoma in June 2018, undergoing round after round of chemotherapy in the hopes of watching his daughters grow up.
“I use it every day I wake up,” McKeown said of her father last month. “I know it’s a privilege to be on this earth and walk and talk.”
Sholto hoped to see his two daughters swim together at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but the pandemic delayed the event and he sadly passed away in August at the age of 53.
“My dad always said he would have loved to see us swim together in the 2020 Olympics,” McKeown told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“It’s amazing, we could have raced in the Olympics if it had gone on, then we could come home and see him. He timed it perfectly…he had the run of his life to see our potential racing at the Olympics.
“That’s my biggest goal, ticking that box for him. He always wanted to see that and you never know what they’re doing up there; whether he can see that. It’s always in the back of my mind. He wanted to see us achieve that.’