Emma McKeon dives into a jam-packed program on the opening night. Picture: AP
Emma McKeon dives into a jam-packed program on the opening night. Picture: AP

McKeon looking to explode out of the blocks

EMMA McKeon will look to spark a Gold Coast gold rush tonight, that could net her as many as six major medals and cement her position as a global swimming star.

McKeon will have up to five swims on Thursday, the opening day of competition, and is favourite to emerge with two gold medals as she starts a marathon program that could see her join Susie O'Neill and Ian Thorpe as our most successful swimmer at a single Games.

But first up she faces a massive challenge from rising star Ariarne Titmus in a 200m freestyle final that could be one of the highlights of the meet.

While McKeon won silver in the event at last year's world championships - one of six medals she claimed in Budapest - she was beaten by rising star Titmus at last month's Games trials and will have to produce her best to overcome one of the most determined athletes on the Australian team.

One of the quietest and most reserved members of the Dolphins squad, McKeon is not about to make any brash statements about her chances. But her placid nature should not be mistaken for a lack of ambition.

"I've got a lot of ambition," McKeon said.

"(The shyness) doesn't mean I'm any less passionate or excited or anything, it's just how I am."

McKeon is keen to lift after slightly disappointing in the trials. Picture: AAP
McKeon is keen to lift after slightly disappointing in the trials. Picture: AAP

That was evident when the 23-year-old admitted the two losses she suffered at trials - in the 200m freestyle and 200m butterfly - had hurt.

"Usually I'm up on the top a bit more often at trials but I think it's good for me, it's just going to make me more motivated," she said. "I'm not satisfied, that's for sure."

McKeon made her senior international debut at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014, winning six medals including four gold.

And while she admitted she had been uncomfortable in the spotlight which accompanied that success, she has grown more accustomed to it as her continual improvement led to her becoming one of the top swimmers in the world.

"I guess the more success you have the more attention you get," McKeon said.

McKeon (left) is much more relaxed in interviews now. Picture: AAP
McKeon (left) is much more relaxed in interviews now. Picture: AAP

"Obviously you want to be successful but I definitely wasn't comfortable with that sort of attention when I was younger.

"I remember those first few years when I started making the team I would get super nervous just to do that interview afterwards.

"Now I don't even remember that until I get out of the pool."

McKeon, like Titmus, is determined to make a statement at these Games as she continues her journey towards the Tokyo Olympics.

"I don't really like to think about medals, I just think about my times. And especially this year, there's a lot of top competitors that won't be here and I want to post times that are going to be competitive with them," she said.

"As much as it's a home Games and you're going to have a home crowd and that's really exciting and I'm super excited for it, I have to keep in mind that it's really just a stepping stone for 2020 because that's my main goal and my main focus."

While Titmus's best chances for gold are in the 400m and 800m freestyle later in the program, her improved speed means she poses a real threat to McKeon in a race set to be a program highlight.

"My 200m (at trials) was probably the best race," said Titmus, who set a new personal best but missed the time she and coach Dean Boxall had targeted, giving her room to improve ahead of Thursday's clash.

"At least I know I've got a lot of areas where I can pick up or drop more time."



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